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Plans to improve Jayne Park are shot down

Decades of effort to upgrade the city's Jayne Park on Cayuga Island in the Niagara River have once again come to a standstill because of neighborhood opposition to some of the suggested improvements.

Reacting to complaints from many residents of Cayuga Island, the City Council earlier this month unanimously turned down a state grant of up to $145,000 that would have been used to hire a consultant who would have solicited comments from residents and drawn up recommendations for the 21-acre park along the shore of the Little Niagara River.

Depending on the recommendations, work at the park could cost up to $290,000 -- with half coming from the state's Environmental Protection Fund and the remaining $145,000 coming from the city treasury.

The cost of hiring a consultant would be $29,780, which would be included in the total cost of $290,000. The city's senior planner, Thomas DeSantis, said this week that without hiring a consultant, no further work could be done and so the project is dormant -- at least for now.

Council Chairman Sam Fruscione said he had received at least 100 e-mail messages and telephone calls from island residents asking that the state grant be rejected.

Councilman Robert Anderson Jr. said he had heard from only a handful of people supporting the initial step of hiring a consultant. "And none of them was in favor of building a parking lot there," he said.

Others who have worked through the years to develop the project have suggested that the opposition comes mainly from residents who fear that some of the suggestions made in an earlier consultant's report some decades ago would automatically be accepted if a new consultant were permitted to review it now.

Those suggestions included building tennis courts, walking paths and a canoe launch with a river overlook. New landscaping would have been planted, and a parking lot was to have been added.

Residents said they felt they had not been included in the research that led to those suggestions, and they adamantly want to be included in any future consultant's study.
"Cayuga Island residents definitely plan to be involved in the process," said Cathy Burke, a Joliet Avenue resident.

That kind of involvement is exactly one of the things that would be required of any new consultant, DeSantis said. The consultant would have to hold at least two public meetings to gather public input on any recommendations it would make.

Among the handful of people who are strongly in favor of proceeding with a consultant's work and eventual recommendations are Gary and Kathleen McCunn, both retired educators who have lived on Cayuga Island's West Rivershore Drive along the Little Niagara River for more than 40 years.

Addressing members of the City Council this week, Gary McCunn said: "Improvements to Jayne Park are crucial to create a healthy, attractive and connected greenspace along the waterfront."

He said the park "contains minimal natural resources besides trees and shrubbery. Access and observation to the Little Niagara River is hidden by overgrown vegetation. It does not capitalize on its unique waterfront location."

"One dream of ours would be to have the shoreline improved by removing invasive plant species," McCunn continued, "and replanting with native plants in such a way as to improve the habitat for all of the wildlife that inhabit that shoreline.

"An environmentally sensitive walkway along the rivershore that would be handicapped-accessible would be a great addition. Permanent trash receptacles are important to reduce trash. There is room to plant more trees. Improvements to the playground would be another possibility."

Kathleen McCunn added that the couple "would not be in favor of adding more structures or a parking lot to the park but we would support enhanced greenspace."

She recalled a long family history of enjoying Jayne Park, including attending the LaSalle Children's Field Days that were held there every June to observe the end of the school year. She said those field days ended sometime in the 1950s.

Fruscione, the Council chairman, said no further action on Jayne Park is currently on the Council's agenda.

e-mail: rbaldwin@buffnews.com

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