Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reprentative Slaughter Ignores Broad Coalition Supporting Robert Moses Parkway Removal

The Niagara Heritage Partnership Letter is retyped below.

Oct. 25, 2007
Hon. Louise M. Slaughter
28th District Local Office
1910 Pine Ave.
Niagara Falls, NY 14301

Dear Representative Slaughter

A few years ago, the membership of Niagara Heritage Partnership was very pleased tolearn about the funding you'd made available for trail construction from the Village of Lewiston, up the Niagara escarpment, and south along the gorge rim. We'd been advocating for hiking and bicycling trails along the Niagara gorge rim since 1997.

At the same time we recognized the funds had the potential to be used in an inappropriate way that the legislation couldn't have forseen, which would also run counter to our central advocacy--the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway between Niagara Falls and Lewiston and the restoration of natural landscapes. Unfortunately, this potentially inappropriate and counter-productive use of the funding now seems on the verge of happening.

The Town of Lewiston has announced its intention to use the funding (with money from the Niagara Greenway initiative to create a trail that assumes the parkway will remain in place, which is far from certain. The town board has already voted to move ahead with contractor study. In our estimation, this is hurrying to build something before final decisions and related regional plans are complete.

A trail with the parkway retained will require multiple overpasses for walkers and bicyclists, a convoluted inelegance of planning that is likely to absorb a half to one million or more extra dollars which will result in a trail that expects eco-toruists to hike and bicycle alongside a commuter route. Spending millions to create this "overpass" trail would then become its own rationale for parkway retention, a position Lewiston officials are on record as favoring.

Town supervisor Fred Newlin and Lewiston Village Mayor Richard Soluri are both members of the "Parkway Preservation Committee." Soluri is also a Niagara River Greenway Commissioner whose public actions in that capacity were sufficiently partisan to cause twenty-two citizens from across Niagara Count to sign a letter to the New York State Ethics Commission requesting an investigation into his behavior. But their actions need not be purposefully manipulative to serve the function of influencing a decision to keep the parkway in place.

With the parkway gone, commonsense would guide the trail segment on the steep escarpment slope into a graceful configuration of switchbacks with several or more level rest areas, perhaps with benches, which would make the trails far more friendly to family cyclists and casual hikers.

We urge you to oppose this precipitous action of the Town of Lewiston to inappropriately utilize funding in this fashion, which ignores a broad coalition of grassroots support for parkway removal. Further, we'd welcome the opportunity to meet with your to provide additional information about our advocacy. We believe our parkway removal proposal to be compatible with the concept of a genuine greenway, existing regional revitalization plans, and the goals o the National Heritage Area. Paul Dyster, Niagara River Greenway Commissioner, chairman of the Citizens' Advisory Committee, would be welcome at such a meeting.

Thank-you for your consideration.
Bob Baxter, Conservation Chair
Niagara Heritage Partnership

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