October 12, 2011

Greenway Commission Fails With N-W Allocation

According to the Niagara River Greenway Commission's website, "the commission shall develop a plan and generic environmental impact statement for the creation of the Niagara River Greenway that will": 
  • Designate the specific boundaries of the Greenway.
  • Create an inventory of existing park and other lands under the jurisdiction of the state, public corporations and municipalities.
  • Identify other lands that can contribute to the purposes of the Greenway.
  • Recommend how the Greenway could be linked to upland and interior communities in order to promote linkages to the River.
  • Evaluate how economic development activities in proximity to the Greenway can support and complement the Greenway.
  • Recommend cooperative efforts with the Province of Ontario and Nation of Canada.
  • Identify sources of funding.
  • Identify the ways for the Commission to work with municipal, state, and federal agencies, public and private corporations, not-for -profit organizations and private property owners and interests.
  • Make recommendations for the on-going operation and maintenance of the Greenway.
The reason I point out each and every one of these points is due to my confusion with the announcement that the Niagara Wheatfield School District has been awarded $6.1 million for campus improvements with funding from the Greenway Commission. 

According to the Buffalo News, the funding will cover a 1.5-mile nature trail around the perimeter of the campus. The project includes removing debris from the creek and plantings on the bank to stabilize it. The eastern part of the trail will be paved, while a loop off the main trail will include a “confidence course” to be used by physical-education classes and the Army reservists who already train on campus once a month. 

The package also includes improvements at the school’s stadium: a new synthetic track, bleachers, press box, concession stand and storage building. Also funded were new lights and security cameras in the school parking lots, and a new handicapped-access ramp to the building. In addition, the committee approved $134,000 for a portable outdoor ice skating rink in Lewiston’s Academy Park. 

I'm sure these are all worthwhile projects, but that's not the point. The Greenway Commission was established to create a world class greenway of trails and parks, and they've been given access to tens of millions of dollars to make it happen - dollars from the New York Power Authority that are generated by you and I, the ratepayers.

Maybe I'm being obtuse, but I fail to see how financing projects for a single entity, not something the general public can enjoy, to the tune of $6 million, fits into the Greenway's mission. I'm having an even harder time understanding how a new track, bleachers, a press box, concession stand and storage building fit into the scope of creating a world class greenway of trails and parks.

Frankly, this is another example of a bunch of bureaucrats who are charged with overseeing a huge pot of someone else's money, with no regard or responsibility for how it's spent. This allocation clearly falls outside of the goals and objectives of the commission, but since the body is not answerable to anyone, the money will flow without hesitation. Meanwhile, we the taxpayers continue to get screwed by a system that favors the select few. 

I may not be able to walk a beautiful new trail in Niagara County, but I'll be able to drive to Wheatfield to get a hotdog at their new concession stand. That seems like a fair trade-off.

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