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State, local officials to discuss park's future

State and local officials have agreed to have a conference telephone conversation at least every two weeks in an effort to speed up revitalization of the poorly maintained and mostly unused Joseph Davis State Park.

The Town Board has been trying for more than a year to reach an agreement with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to permit the town to take over operation of the park, which has fallen into disrepair because of the lack of state funds to maintain it.

Town Supervisor Steven L. Reiter said Monday that progress has been so slow that he called it "glacial."

Reiter added, however, that state parks officials have praised employees of the town's public works and parks departments for cutting the grass and cleaning up debris even though the town does not own the park.

If ownership of the park could be transferred to the town or if the town could get a long-term lease to operate it, the supervisor said, maintenance and operation would not cost town taxpayers any money. It would be paid for by Greenway funds provided by the New York Power Authority as part of its relicensing agreement for the Niagara Power Project.

Louis Giardino, president and chief executive officer of CEA International, told Town Board members on Monday that local legislative representatives and state parks officials agreed at a recent meeting in Albany to hold regular phone conversations to discuss the future of the park.

CEA International is the management consultant to the Joseph Davis State Park Local Development Corp.

Giardino said he was encouraged by the state's response to the town's goal of taking over the park, but state action on environmental issues and other concerns was moving very slowly. Reiter added that some talks with state parks officials have been "frustrating."

"We just want to bring the park up to the point where it can be used," said Councilman Michael J. Marra.

One of the more immediate issues is that a parking lot there needs to be repaved. The town is reluctant to do paving at a state park unless Lewiston can get at least a 40-year lease on the property.

The 375-acre park with 1,200 feet of access to the Niagara River is along Lower River Road near the Lewiston-Porter town line. It consists of fields, woodlands, ponds that originally were to have been developed for fishing, trails for hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling, a Frisbee disc course and a bird conservation area.

In other business, the Town Board heard a presentation from Steve Bottita, an account executive for the John W. Danforth Co., who wants to offer Lewiston a "performance contract" aimed at conserving energy at town-owned facilities.

Bottita said an "energy retrofit" might save the town "a few million dollars over the next 10 years." He said it could save 10 percent to 30 percent on energy costs each year. The board took no immediate action on the presentation.