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Seven projects get a thumbs-up, despite objections

Improvements to a Niagara Falls park, a river trail and fishing dock in the City of Tonawanda, and an ice rink in Lewiston were among projects approved by the Niagara River Greenway Commission on Tuesday.

All seven projects presented to the 12-member commission were approved, despite some objections by commission Chairman Robert J. Kresse and Margaret Wooster of the Niagara Relicensing Environmental Coalition.

Kresse said the ice rink, a set of microphones for War of 1812 historical tours in Lewiston and environmental education for the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District were "not consistent with the Greenway funds."

Wooster recommended changes to Tonawanda's fishing pier plan before she would endorse it.

The majority of commissioners disagreed, voting to approve:

*The repair of boat docks, lighting, paving, construction of a fish cleaning station and other upgrades, amounting to $400,000, to Griffon Park in Niagara Falls.

*A new ice rink and warming tent in Academy Park in Lewiston. The town plans to pursue a lease-to-own agreement for the rink. It will request $134,000 for the first year of operations and most likely $72,000 per year after.

*Two War of 1812-related projects, including $25,000 for a series of five "storyteller" signs along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail and $15,000 for programming of a mobile 1812 historical presentation in Lewiston.

*Environmental and facility improvements to Niagara Wheatfield High School as part of its $6 million capital improvement project. Environmental improvements would include native plantings, a nature trail, improvements to Cayuga Creek and an outdoor classroom.

Facility improvements would include a new synthetic running track, playground, concession stand, press box, bleachers and security cameras.

The district has applied to the state Education Department for additional funding.

*Stabilization of the City of Tonawanda's Niawanda Park River Walk Trail using 700 feet of new riprap. The shoreline is now lined by concrete discarded from construction projects, and the city requested $250,000 for the project to supplement the $250,000 received from the state Dormitory Authority.

*The installation of a handicapped-accessible fishing pier in the Gateway Harbor area of Tonawanda with access to the Niagara River, the Erie Canal and Ellicott Creek. The $350,000 fishing pier and concrete walkway will complement a recently completed concrete bulkhead and dock area in Ellicott Creek.

Funding for the projects is not guaranteed; the commission can only determine if the project is consistent with the Greenway's vision, and local standing committees will decide whether to approve the funds.

That reality has been a growing concern for some commission members, and an informational workshop will be held at 10 a.m. Friday in the Beaver Island State Park Office, 2136 West Oakfield Road, Grand Island, for commissioners to discuss the Niagara River Greenway Legislation.

No votes will be taken at the session, and there will be no public comment period, Kresse said.