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The state Office of Parks will continue to operate Artpark on state Power Authority property in Lewiston, and the Schoellkopf Geological Museum on Power Authority property in Niagara Falls, if the Authority's license to operate the Niagara Power Project is renewed.

Power Authority trustees, meeting Tuesday in Albany, approved new leases that would make those properties available for use as part of the state parks system for an additional 25 years if the operating license is renewed.

The authority's federal license to operate the Niagara Power Project expires in 2007. The authority is preparing a renewal application to be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

"Lewiston's Artpark and the Schoellkopf Museum are significant cultural assets in the Niagara Falls region, and we're happy to continue doing our part to serve the residents of the area as well as the millions of visitors who go to Niagara Falls each year," C. D. "Rap" Rappleyea said in Albany. Rappleyea is chairman and chief executive officer of the New York Power Authority.

The leases cover about 146 acres used for Artpark and about 59 acres along the Niagara River gorge between the Rainbow Bridge and the Niagara Falls-Lewiston border.

The Office of Parks operates the Schoellkopf Museum and a series of hiking trails in the parcel along the gorge in Niagara Falls.

The leases will require a token payment of $1.

State Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro said, "The approval of the leases by Power Authority trustees will provide continued recreational opportunities and programming at these fantastic facilities well into the next century."

The Power Authority owns or controls about 193 acres in Lewiston that have been leased to the Office of Parks for the last 25 years for use as the Earl W. Brydges Artpark. Much of that property was acquired by the Power Authority to support the construction of the Niagara Power Project.

The Office of Parks will continue to use about 146 acres there, and the Village of Lewiston has asked the Power Authority to convey or lease to it the remaining acreage for use as soccer fields and a wildlife habitat area.

Authority trustees will consider that request after environmental reviews are finished.

The Office of Parks plans to maintain and possibly to improve the trails it has developed along the right of way of the former Great Gorge Railroad near the Schoellkopf Museum.

In addition, the office hopes to develop an information and comfort station there, along with picnic facilities and additional trails.

The Power Authority has supported the development of recreational facilities in the Niagara Falls area since it began building the Niagara Project in 1958.

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