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Grand Island Town Board votes to oppose bike path plan

A discussion on the proposed West River Parkway bike path during the Grand Island Town Board work session turned heated Monday evening, complete with raised voices and insults.

In the end, the board voted 3-2 to urge New York state to reject the bike path plan. Supervisor Nathan McMurray and Councilwoman Beverly Kinney were the “no” votes.

The state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation plan calls for the closure of West River Parkway to motor vehicles and transformation of it into a bike trail. During a public information session several weeks ago, residents voiced concerns over the placement of parking lots along the trail, increased traffic along West River Road and access to duck blinds for hunters.

The trail on Grand Island, which would stretch from Beaver Island State Park to Buckhorn State Park, would complete a bike path from Buffalo and Niagara Falls,

Councilman Michael Madigan asked for the discussion before the work session, and questioned whether the current board had ever approved the plan. McMurray argued that previous boards had approved the concept of a bike path on West River Parkway.

McMurray, who has led the push for the bike path, said he laid the plan out for board members in the Town Hall conference room several months ago.

“I never heard a peep,” he said.

Councilman Raymond Billica acknowledged that McMurray drew the plan out for the board. However, he said, that’s as far as it went.

“Never did we discuss it, nor voting on supporting that plan,” he said.

Madigan worried that the state believes the Town Board backs the plan.

“One of the concerns I have,” he said, “is that it sounds like the town has taken a position the town has never taken.”

At one point during the discussion, Madigan asked McMurray, who raised his voice several times, why he was so upset.

“Because it’s ridiculous,” McMurray said. “I’m doing something to better the island, and you guys are playing politics.”

Kinney said she wanted to wait for the public comment period to end, and listen to any changes the state may make before deciding to reject the plan. The comment period on the project ends on Aug. 3.

“I don’t understand why we can’t wait until the process is over,” she said.

The board also clashed over voting on the motion during the work session, or waiting for the Town Board meeting which followed the work session.

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