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$244,000 lights up Hartland park ball fields

It will soon be possible to play baseball and softball in the evening at Hartland Town Park, thanks to the recent awarding of $244,000 in Niagara River Greenway Commission funds to install lighting.

"We're excited," said Town Supervisor W. Ross Annable. "Lighting was on our wish list for a long time for the park diamonds, and it's something we could not have done ourselves without funding. This will be the jewel of the park."

The funds will provide lighting for two of the parks' three diamonds, Annable said, and will complete phase one of the three-pronged effort.

"Phase two is to pave our dirt nature trails, to make them easier to walk on and make them handicapped-accessible, as well as put some exercise kiosks in," he said. "Phase three is to update our playground equipment and to put in an asphalt rink for skateboarding or skating.

"We'll probably go back to Greenway to apply for more funding for these two phases in the next year or so, as well as look for other grant money through the state," Annable said.

"The whole project is about $450,000," he added. "We were initially denied the recommendation for the whole amount, and the Niagara County Legislative Committee suggested we break it into three phases. Phase one was eventually approved by the [Greenway] Host Community Standing Committee."

Composed of seven members from the Niagara Power Coalition and New York Power Authority, the Niagara River Greenway Commission's Host Community Standing Committee helps distribute funds from the Power Authority.

The funds were established as part of the Power Authority's 2007 relicensing agreement to operate the Niagara Power Project. The Power Authority agreed to pay $9 million per year -- $450 million total over 50 years -- to fund local projects that meet certain criteria through four standing committees.

"We don't intend to look to enhance the park beyond this, other than to add some picnic tables and maintain everything," Annable noted. "We have updated our backstops and benches, and reroofed and resided our old pavilion. We're trying to spruce things up for our town's bicentennial celebration, which starts with a parade on July 28 and Old-Fashioned Days event at the park, followed by fireworks there on Aug. 4."

The town acquired the roughly 50 acres of land on Ridge Road for its sole town park in the 1970s and offers picnic facilities, pavilions, restrooms, nature trails, playground equipment and recreational programs for children. Organized softball and baseball leagues also use the park.

"We received a small grant maybe 20 years ago, but otherwise, we've just been doing things on our own at the park, kind of piecemeal," said Annable.

He said he hoped the lighting installation work would begin in late summer or early fall.