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Town of Lewiston recreation committee weighs the benefits of Joseph Davis State Park

LEWISTON – It appeared to be a done deal – putting Joseph Davis State Park back into the hands of the New York State Parks. But discussions have been brewing recently about another option keeping the park and its operation and maintenance in the hands of the Town of Lewiston.

On Monday, the Town Board will meet in executive session with Mark W. Thomas, western director for New York State Parks, and expects to make a final decision.

Lewiston Parks and Recreation Director Michael Dashineau said keeping the Joseph Davis State Park in the hands of the town answers a big problem they are running into – space. He said they are at capacity for programs in the town’s five parks – Pletcher Road, Kiwanis, Colonial Village, Sanborn and Washuta – and have had to turn to leasing space at area schools.

“We have three options – Get out and turn the park over to the state. Stay in and maintain it or stay in and develop it,” said Dashineau.

The town took over the park in 2011 after New York State had largely neglected it and threatened to close it in 2010.

Under former Supervisor Steven Reiter, over $1 million in was spent on engineering and planning to overhaul the park. Those plans never materialized, but Dashineau said there is opportunity there.

Dashineau met on Wednesday night with the Recreation Committee, Supervisor Dennis Brochey and Councilwoman Beth Ceretto to discuss the pros and cons.

He told the committee that Joseph Davis State Park provided the Town of Lewiston an opportunity to gain its only waterfront property and to expand without incurring any purchase costs.

“The best way to go forward to try to improve Joseph Davis State Park would be to stay within the state’s master plan,” said Dashineau after the meeting.

He said the biggest problem Reiter faced was that the major overhaul required changing the state master plan for the park, something that can take years to do.

Dashineau said some things they could do, which would fit with the master plan, would be to improve walking trails and trails for cross-country skiing, improve the disc golf course, and renovate the pool area, fields and the concession stand. “Mike had some nice plans and ideas if we should happen to stay there,” Brochey said Thursday, “but any plans outside the original master plan might take three to five years to get approval.”

He said a balanced budget is his No. 1 priority. “I want whatever is going to save us money,” said Brochey. “I still think it was costing us over $100,000 [per year] to maintain it and if the state park wants to come in and maintain it, why not let them?”

Dashineau has maintained that the costs per year to both maintain and staff the state park were closer to $50,000.

Brochey said over $1.1 million spent for engineering and planning without making changes to the park “seemed a shameful waste of greenway funds.”

“If we can work out some agreement with the state park where they maintain it and we still have the availability to do stuff with greenway funds, that might help the town and our recreation department without having to make a commitment to invest [in the park] ourselves. If we can find a way to do that, I’m all ears,” said Brochey.

Whether the town turns the park over to the state, they are still responsible for some legacy costs, which include cleaning up some worn out and destroyed buildings, as well as removing asbestos in those buildings in the park.