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CONSERVATION AREA BACKED IN NORTHWEST WETLANDS

When Jim Wolf was a child, he rode his horse where Boulevard Mall is now located.

Because he did not want to see another part of Amherst set aside for commercial use, the Pendleton resident attended a meeting Monday night in Williamsville South High School to tell town officials what he thinks should be done with the proposed conservation area in the wetlands in northwest Amherst.

"Because I grew up in the area, I don't want to see anything destroyed," Wolf said.

The meeting was the second of three public hearings on the proposed conservation area, composed of the former Faculty/Student Association property, lands of the state Urban Development Corp. and Amherst Veterans Canal Park. The entire parcel of land is about two square miles.

Town officials are holding the meetings to hear what the public thinks is the best use of the property bordered by Tonawanda Creek Road, Campbell Boulevard, North French Road and Sweet Home Road.

After the third meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 16 in Amherst Central High School, the advisory committee will present a draft plan to the Amherst Town Board, according to Bob Walter of the town Planning Department.

Wolf said the area should be used for passive recreation, but Dick Baldwin, chairman of the Recreation Commission, said the area should be developed.

"We are in desperate need of another golf course," Baldwin said. "It is a tremendous piece of property, and I don't see anything wrong with a golf course tucked in the corner to serve the growing population of seniors."

He added that he does not play golf.

The audience of about 30 people did not respond to Baldwin but applauded when George Richmond said: "I'm a senior, and I think a golf course is a miserable idea."

Richmond added that the lowest-impact vehicle is a canoe because it leaves nothing behind. He suggested connecting the waterways on the site for canoe travel.

Robbyn Drake said the most valuable thing about the site is its size.

"The tiny patches of forests in Amherst are not good for the animals," Ms. Drake said. "Ball parks and paved trails are detrimental because they will divide the land."

Arthur Klein, chairman of the conservation committee of the Adirondack Mountain Club, agreed with Ms. Drake.

He suggested doing nothing to the land, just setting it aside to preserve it.

"If you do that, in 100 years, generations of people will thank you," he said. "If you divide it, sooner or later it will be like Disneyland.

"We've only been fooling around with forests for 200 years," he added. "We don't really know that much about them."

Donald Roberson also recommended preserving the land as a wilderness area.

"We would support trails to study birds," Roberson said. "Educating our children and grandchildren in the natural world would be a great educational opportunity."

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