I write about outdoor spaces a lot, but that’s because our most valuable resources on Grand Island are our unique forests, wetlands, and bodies of water. Two weeks ago I mentioned Scenic Woods in my letter. Since then, I’ve had people ask, “What’s Scenic Woods?”
The Scenic Woods Bicentennial Park Project began decades ago when the Town of Grand Island purchased a swath of land just south of Ransom Road. The land was supposed to be developed into a subdivision. Instead, the Town decided to buy it and keep it green. Previous administration applied for and received grant funding from the Niagara River Greenway Commission.
What is the Greenway?
The Niagara River Greenway Plan began in 2004. The Greenway vision is to create a “greenway,” or network, of interconnected parks, river access points, and waterfront trails along the Niagara River. The idea is simple. Reclaim the river for recreation and preservation.
The Greenway Plan is funded by the New York Power Authority — the people who run the power plant hanging over the gorge. In 2007, the NYPA agreed to pay $9 million a year for 50 years to fund local projects in exchange for the impact of removing large amounts of water from the river.
This money is distributed in the form of grants to help make community recreation and preservation projects — like paths, shoreline rehabilitation, trails, and parks — along the Niagara River come to life. Municipalities are usually required to contribute part of the project funds, but the bulk of the cost is covered by the grant.
Managing a grant is a complex process. Paperwork must be submitted, deadlines must be met, and resolutions must be passed. Somehow this grant fell through the cracks, and the Town almost lost the money, not once, but twice. Preserving green space on Grand Island has always been a priority for me. When I took office, I vowed not to let the grant slip away again. It took lots of letters, phone calls, and hard work, but Scenic Woods will soon be a reality, not just a pile of documents.
So what is Scenic Woods?
Scenic Woods is over 250 acres of forests, meadows, and wetlands just south of Ransom Road near East River. The project will turn this space into a nature preserve that includes five miles of passive recreation trails. Bicentennial Park is part of the same project: it’s a public waterfront access point on East River that connects to the main portion of Scenic Woods.
The project has four phases:
1) Western trail head, Sturbridge Lane parking, and trails near Gun Creek
2) Main trail to East River, two boardwalks, and eight rest spaces
3) More boardwalks and connector trails
4) Eastern trail head and a watchtower in Bicentennial Park
I’ve seen the renderings, and it looks beautiful. If you’re interested in seeing details, I put together a PowerPoint with images and maps of what it will look like when finished. You can find it at www.grandislandny.us.
When will this happen?
I’m thankful that the Town Board voted with me to keep the project moving forward at the June 18 Town Board meeting. This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky dream. Phase 1 (trail head and Gun Creek trails) is happening now. Our Engineering Department anticipates that the majority of the project will be completed by the end of this year.
Hopefully by Christmas we’ll be able to stand under the trail head and hike into the 250 acres of land that will stay green for generations to come. Next week I’ll talk more about how we’re making Grand Island more accessible to families, walkers, joggers, and bikers.
With Highest Regards,