I have great news. Two unrelated things I’ve been advocating for finally came to fruition. First, the West River Shoreline Trail will officially open on Tuesday, October 23. Second, Tonawanda Coke is closed forever.
West River Trail: connecting communities
The West River Shoreline Trail (also known as the Multi-Use Trail) project turned an old, under-used road into a state-of-the-art bike and walking trail that will connect Beaver Island State Park to Buckhorn State Park, and connect Grand Island to surrounding communities. The eight-mile trail will give bicyclists and pedestrians from all over Western New York the opportunity to safely enjoy the beautiful Niagara River. This $2.5 million project was funded by federal transportation grant money and the Niagara River Greenway grant money.
We have a unique geographic location, and I’m excited that we can finally share it with even more people. 80% of North America’s freshwater (and 20% of the world’s freshwater) flows around Grand Island. We have 27 miles of shoreline, forests, wetlands, marshes, and fields. Until now, much of it was inaccessible to the general public.
Waterfront access is good for individuals and for the economy. It encourages recreation, tourism, and small businesses. I’d like to invite you to join me to see the new Trail firsthand on October 23. If you are interested in attending the 10:30 a.m. ceremony, please RSVP to Angela.Berti@parks.ny.gov.
Tonawanda Coke: a new era
Last Friday, Tonawanda Coke informed the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that they plan to shut down the plant for good. I’m so excited! So many people fought them for so long. Thank you to those who took charge of grassroots efforts to stop this dirty company. They poisoned our neighborhoods and paid higher-ups in the process, but it’s all over now.
Tonawanda Coke was not willing or able to comply with the probation stipulations required by federal court for air quality and facility safety. Instead, they filed for bankruptcy and began shutdown this week. Their air permits will be revoked permanently, and the facility will close forever.
The DEC and other agencies are on site to oversee operations and ensure that the process is safe and efficient. After the shutdown these agencies will begin cleanup efforts. The State is helping former employees of Tonawanda Coke find new, safer employment. Never again will we see smoke billowing out of the stacks. This marks the beginning of a new era in Western New York.