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Some residents upset by park's condition

One angry woman is calling it a dump, while a Village Board member calls it "a work in progress."

Plateau Park was officially opened in October 2003, with plans to offer both sports and natural wildlife areas.

While the sporting area has been used regularly, paths to the "nature" park at the top of South Eighth Street reveal an unattractive vista: rusted pipes, broken concrete, pieces of road paving and dozens of 10-foot piles of fill, mixed with construction debris, rock and concrete.

In a former parking lot are piles of wood, wood chips, bricks, pipes, large rocks and some construction equipment.

Joan Johnson, of Niagara Falls, said she recently took visitors to see the wildlife refuge, which she helped to establish as a member of the Niagara Frontier Wildlife Habitat Council. She said they were shocked and saddened by what they saw.

"I had personally established milkweed and late-blooming purple aster for butterflies, by carefully hand-gathering seeds from my own property and spreading them in the newly seeded area of special grasses and other wildflowers," Johnson said last week.

She said debris had been dumped on the entrance to the walkway, where she had planted her flowers.

Johnson said her plans for a walk, followed by plans to have lunch and shop in the village were ruined, and she was embarrassed in front of her guests.

Trustee William Geiben said the top of South Eighth Street is a "temporary staging area" for storing Department of Public Works items. He also said the 10-foot piles of dirt are expected to become a berm, seeded with grass and properly blended in, to block the view of the staging area.

He called the South Eighth Street road to the parking lot "a road to nowhere" and said officials don't want people to drive up the hill or park there, because it is hidden from view.

"The parking lot is not going to stay there. We plan to have a walking path up the hill (from the library parking lot on South Eighth Street) and a path from Tuscarora Street to meet the wildlife refuge path. Some large rocks will be relocated for attractiveness, and the brick and pipe from the old DPW site [which was recently torn down] will be moved to the new site," Geiben said.

He said the piles of fill came from construction of the new DPW site and the condominiums being built at the foot of the hill.

"The village has limited resources and staff, and some projects are ongoing. We've met with environmentalists to continue the development of the habitat, and all their concerns have been addressed," Geiben said.

"That is not true at all," said Bob Baxter, a founding member of the Niagara Frontier Wildlife Habitat Council.

Dr. David Cooper, president of the Niagara Frontier Entomological Society and former president of the Buffalo Ornithological Society, said he is "dreadfully upset."

Baxter and Cooper said they had understood the piles of dirt would be removed. They also said they believed the small parking lot was part of the original plan because it allows access to trails in the refuge to the disabled.

Cooper said Plateau Park -- once a dumping ground for the excavated Power Authority fill -- is once again becoming a dumping ground.

"We want that dump area out of there," Baxter said. "It was never suggested it would be bermed."


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