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The NFTA did not get a grant it sought for a bike path along three miles of waterfront, but one portion of that pedestrian/cyclists' access route is nonetheless being installed.

It's part of a $668,000 project -- paid for by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority -- to fill in and landscape a 24-acre tract immediately south of the Small Boat Harbor.

"The work, by E&R General Construction Co. is ahead of schedule," said Walter Zmuda, the authority's general manager for engineering. "We expect it to be completed in mid-July."

The square parcel is being filled in with spoil from Pilot Field, covered with crushed stone and landscaped: A row of trees will screen it from Fuhrmann Boulevard, and another row of trees will set the parking area apart from the bike path on the Small Boat Harbor side.

Along the breakwater to the west and the rip-rap to the south, a 100-foot-wide grass promenade will separate the walkway from the stone parking area. The breakwater, itself, is getting a $2 million rebuilding by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and already offers access to shore fishermen.

"The path will be 10 feet wide and blacktopped, like the Riverwalk," Zmuda said. "It will be linked to our present Small Boat Harbor parking lot and end on the south side." The lot should accommodate cars and trailers that now park along Fuhrmann Boulevard during peak weekends.

Eventually, NFTA plans call for expansion of the Small Boat Harbor. The bay to the west of the lot will hold more slips and new launch ramps will be installed.

According to the authority's master plan, the pedestrian/cycle path eventually will circle the present Small Boat Harbor then follow the shoreline -- past piers, industrial sites, the undeveloped core of NFTA's land between the old Freezer Queen plant and Shooters Restaurant and past the new boat docks planned for that area to end near the Coast Guard base.

"We applied for a 1990-91 grant of $2,280,000 under the state's Environmental Quality Bond Act," said planning manager David J. Franko. "We were turned down. But we'll reapply next year."

The entire 3-mile shore access project will cost in excess of $5 million, Franko said, with the NFTA putting up the land and about $1.5 million of authority funds.

In addition to the pedestrian bike path, a series of small, landscaped waterfront parks for shore fishing and picnicking is envisioned, Franko said.

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