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Lewiston working on deal for town to run Joseph Davis State Park

Add Lewiston to the list of communities looking to run a park that the cash-strapped state can no longer afford to operate.

Lewiston leaders are following the towns of Aurora and Hamburg in attempting to save one of the three state parks that regional parks officials announced last month would close this Saturday for budget reasons.

Aurora is trying to come to terms on a management agreement that would keep the 633-acre Knox Farm State Park operating in some form.

The Town of Hamburg already has entered a partnership with the state to ensure continued access to Woodlawn Beach State Park. Now Lewiston is in talks with the state to maintain Joseph Davis State Park.

Lewiston Supervisor Steven L. Reiter recently called the 375-acre park along the Niagara River a "rat's nest of blight" that the state left wanting attention earlier in the year after closing and then sparing it.

"For the kind of neighborhood that park sits in and the kind of use that park could sustain, it's a shame to me that it's in that condition," Reiter said. "I think I echo the frustrations of a lot of the residents of Lewiston."

A 10-year partnership agreement announced Dec. 7 will allow Town of Hamburg employees to take over park operations, including park maintainence, and provide lifeguard-protected swimming areas.

The state will retain ownership of the park, but the town will receive all revenue generated there, such as parking and picnic shelter fees.

Reiter said he doesn't see any problems with the similar agreement that the state has given Lewiston to consider.

He said he hopes the town can work out a 20-year lease, with a 20-year renewal option.

If the park lease is accepted, the town would have to honor the agreements the state made with the Audubon Society for walking trails, a nature center and bird blinds.

Reiter said that he has met with the Audubon Society several times and that the society would be willing to work with the town.

"I think with the town forces we can stretch their dollars a lot farther," Reiter said.

At the very least, Reiter said, Lewiston could have crews in the park to cut the grass so it remains open for youngsters, picnickers, golfers and anglers who use the docks.

The town, he said, also hopes to use some of its Niagara River Greenway money and other funds from the State Power Authority to make some improvements.

"I plan on this being good news," he said. "This is another asset we can utilize."

The town and the Audubon Society already plan a campground and enhancements that would allow more visitors to use the fishing piers, Reiter said.

He said they could also ask for outside investors to include some cabins or a rustic inn along the riverfront.

"I think we can generate some revenues," the supervisor said.

Reiter also noted that Niagara County has one of the largest recorded horse registrations in the state and suggested that equestrian trails could be part of a new plan.

"It sat there for years being neglected, but there [are] a lot of opportunities there," Reiter said. "There hasn't been much use of it, other than disk golfers, who are a very large active group of supporters."

"It won't be hard to make it better," Reiter said, "but it won't be closed because the Town of Lewiston didn't step up."

He said that anyone who would like to help organize a "Friends of Joseph Davis State Park" group to assist with the park may send an e-mail