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TREE-PLANTING BEGINS PROJECT

One down and 99 to go as part of a beautification project to plant 100 deciduous and coniferous trees alongside Clarence bike trails over the next year.

A maple tree was planted Wednesday during a ceremony at Main Street and Salt Road -- the entrance of a former rail line that is now an exercise trail. It runs east to the Newstead town line and hooks up with a five-mile trail along the old West Shore Railroad in the Village of Akron.

"Some of our paths are already built, and some are being built," said Peter J. Wolfe, Conservation Committee chairman. "Now they'll have an assortment of trees -- hardwoods and pines."

The town recently received a $7,500 state grant for the project with the help of State Sen. Mary Lou Rath, R-Williamsville.

"The more green space, the more we improve the environment. Ultimately it's going to provide a higher quality of life for all the residents of that area," said Dan Gardner, a spokesman for Rath.

Clarence has been trail-building since 1995 and is among the first local communities to initiate "rails-to-trails" using abandoned railroad rights of way.

The town started with a chunk of the "Peanut Line," a former New York Central Railroad spur running from Caledonia to Tonawanda. It expanded the trail west to a town park nearNewhouse Road for three miles. The next planned path will start at Wehrle Drive, between Shimerville and Gunnville roads.

Clarence budgets $75,000 a year for conservation, and most of that is going to trail expansion, Wolfe said, "because that's what people want."

Residents use the trails not only for bicycling, but for walking, jogging and in-line skating as well.

"We call them bike paths," Wolfe said, "but they're also very nice exercise and nature paths."

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