I went to Akron Falls Park with my family recently. What a beautiful park. I had never been there. We climbed on the moss-covered rocks, used some sticks we found to play King Arthur, and drank some hot chocolate we brought.
Amazingly, we seemed to be the only people in the entire park. Having lived abroad so long, I will never tire of the luxury that the natural surroundings of Western New York and Southern Ontario provide. I remember going to mountains so packed with tourists in Asia that ascending the peak was like waiting in line for an amusement park ride. It’s hard to calculate the benefit of all this space to our standard of living.
Threats to our space
But make no mistake, our way of life is in constant peril. Since I have been Supervisor, I have met with several developers who have come to my office trying to hawk the white elephant gift of sprawl as a solution to all of Grand Island’s problems. Let me say it here clearly, “I DON’T WANT IT.” You can keep your cloned apartment complexes and cut rate subdivisions. We don’t have the infrastructure to support it. And further yet, there is no apparent need or desire to have it. I don’t have droves of people coming in demanding more apartments. Quite the opposite.
Let me also say this clearly, “I DID NOT AND DO NOT SUPPORT THE APARTMENTS ON THE BOULEVARD.” That was already well underway when I took office. Short of chaining myself to a tree, there was nothing I could have done to stop the project that would not have put the town at serious legal/financial risk. I hope the apartments are a great success, but I miss that green space that was there. Those apartments (no matter how fancy they claim to be) were a mistake. It’s too big, too costly, and too poorly conceived.
I’m not just against apartments. I don’t want big box stores covering Grand Island either. I would support (and am actively trying to find) a grocery store that would come here. But you can keep Walmart. Would a few chains make Grand Island a more convenient place to live? Maybe. But at what cost to our existing stores and our town? The path to success for Grand Island is keeping it unique by protecting its green space. We should not try to mimic the failed development schemes of every other city and town in America.
Master Plan, Master Plan, Master Plan
If I sound like a broken record, I’m sorry. But some people still don’t get it. They think Master Plan means a plan to carve up the Island for hungry developers. Or they think we should sell out to the big box chains. If you think that’s correct or what I stand for, you are mistaken.
I have seen the circles of decaying apartment complexes and strip malls in places like Phoenix and Houston. Once they build one complex, they are off to the next, with each layer of development leaving its predecessor behind to decay. Never been to those places? Well, try Amherst. There are so many empty and ugly buildings in Amherst. Remember, when you build something, it might last many, many years. And it might not. Even the much-vaunted Clarence has its fair share of empty gas stations and beaten down plazas—it’s not just a plague unique to Grand Island Boulevard. That’s why proper zoning and long-term planning matter. That’s why we are working on the Master Plan.
I want to build—parks!
I am supportive of ecotourism, snowmobiling, kayaking, hiking, and farms. I wrote about our most recent attempt to protect farming on Grand Island last week. And you know how hard I fought for the West River project by working with the State. If you think parks don’t make money, they are the hub of a $646 billion recreational industry. And today, I’m proud to announce that the much talked about Scenic Woods Project will be completed this year.
IT'S OFFICIAL! SCENIC WOODS IS UNDERWAY!
For those who do not know, Scenic Woods is the 220-acre space (Figure 1), which the town has long sought to turn into a nature refuge with trails and boardwalks. The town was awarded a grant to complete Phase 1 well before I was in office. But the grant lapsed because of lack of progress. That was a real threat to the project. Once Greenway grants lapse, it's like reviving someone bitten by a zombie. They might moan and drag their feet, but it is almost impossible to bring them back to life.
But we did it! With much effort and persistence. I'm pretty darn excited about this. And very proud to have been able to ‘get the job done’. When I gave the Greenway presentation a few weeks ago, they asked me, "We've heard over and over that Grand Island is going to do this; why should we trust you now?" I answered simply, "Because we'll get it done." Thankfully, the Greenway has said, "We have confidence in this new administration." I won't let them (OR YOU) down. There is more work to do for the next phases, but starting is half the battle! I’m already working on the grant for Phase 2 (the trail to the river).
I need your support to protect Grand Island
I’m for change. Good change. I’m not for change that will kill this place we all love and so many of you have devoted your lives to. To protect it (to keep it green, semi-rural) and to help it grow (through long-term planning and smart development) I will need your help. Unless we act, we will be acted upon. And Grand Island will look just like a pale version of everywhere else instead of growing into a better version of what it already is. Together, we can preserve what makes Grand Island special.
With highest regards,