The cutting of brush and trees has been halted along West River Parkway on Grand Island after several areas that were supposed to be trimmed were clear-cut instead. Several trees also were removed.
State officials are trying to balance the interests of residents and motorists -- some want to see more river, and some want to see more trees -- while protecting an important habitat for birds and other wildlife.
Through an unusual arrangement, the work on state property has been done under county auspices.
The eight-mile parkway connecting Beaver Island and Buckhorn state parks provides a spectacular view of the Niagara River and Canadian shore. It runs parallel to West River Road, whose residents enjoy the same view.
For several years, welfare recipients in a county workfare program have cleared brush and trimmed trees on state property along the river. They left the brush for removal by the state Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction.
This year, however, the vegetation in two or three areas was not merely trimmed but cut away completely, prompting complaints.
"It got out of hand with wide swathes of clear-cutting," said Ben Morey, Beaver Island Park manager.
Morey said he was not putting the blame anywhere.
But the work in specific areas apparently was done at the request of people living on West River Road, who made their wishes known to the office of County Legislature Chairman Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore.
The clear-cut portions included an area in front of the home of Robert Beach, president of the West River Homeowners Association, which helps maintain the parkway.
Beach said the work was done about a month ago while he was away. He said he was surprised to find that everything -- poison ivy, brush and two trees -- had been removed.
"It was more than I asked for and more than I expected, but I admit I'm not unhappy about it," said Beach, who can see the river from his home again for the first time in years.
Beach said he thinks the work was done in front of his house because he was among the first to file a request with Swanick's office, not because of his voluntary and often-thankless job as president of the association.
Swanick agreed that a county program on state land is unusual but said he considers it a good example of intergovernmental cooperation. It worked fine for years, he said, but was halted after the state Department of Environmental Conservation notified him that the area is a bird sanctuary.
"The program is on hold, but I think it's a good program, and if it needs to be modified, we can sit down and discuss it," he said.