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Amherst plans to take control of a 20-acre stretch along the Erie Canal now that a state canal commission has endorsed a lease agreement with the town.

A state Canal Corp. commission has approved a contract allowing Amherst to lease the land -- 19.65 acres to be exact -- on the north side of Tonawanda Creek Road, east of Campbell Boulevard between the North Amherst Fire Company and a set of Niagara Mohawk power lines, said Anya M. Frost, a spokeswoman for the Canal Corp.

Amherst will pay $20,000 a year over 40 years, or two consecutive 20-year terms, according to the agreement. Amherst then will sub-lease 4 acres to the nearby North Amherst Fire Company.

Amherst officials hope to sort out any last-minute details of the pact in the coming days and take over the property, which will be used as open space for recreation, within the next few weeks.

The state Canal Corp., a subsidiary of the Thruway Authority, has been trying to sell and lease waterfront parcels from North Tonawanda to Albany to rejuvenate the areas along the canal system and attract tourists.

Amherst officials last year agreed they wanted to preserve that 20-acre tract along the canal, which at one point had been suggested for a boating complex with a restaurant and retail before the town stepped in.

"It just fits into everything else we've been working on in North Amherst," said Amherst Council Member William L. Kindel, referring to the town's preservation efforts in northern Amherst.

Amherst, meanwhile, still has a stake in the acquisition of another canal parcel nearby.

Pendleton will take ownership of Nine Mile Island -- 30 acres straddling the border of Erie and Niagara counties, just north of Tonawanda Creek Road -- thanks to a $310,000 transaction within the state system.

Amherst and Pendleton had been working together to buy Nine Mile Island and keep it free from development until State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-North Tonawanda, came up with the funds for Pendleton to own it outright.

Pendleton, though, still plans to share Nine Mile Island, which is in Pendleton but accessible only through Amherst.

"Once we officially own it then, yes, we'll get involved with Amherst," said Pendleton Supervisor William A. Boulden. "We told them that we're going to work with them."

Boulden was unsure when Pendleton actually would take title to the property.

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