The Great NIMBY’s Want West River All to Themselves

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Opposition to Grand Island bike path heats up as Public Meeting to be held next week

A group of NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) -inspired residents on Grand Island appear to be gaining momentum in their efforts to halt New York State Parks’ plans to convert the virtually unused West River Parkway into a beautiful bike path along miles of the glorious west branch of the world famous Niagara River. 

These residents, who, to a man and woman, live on West River Road, claim they object to the state’s proposed bike path for various reasons such as safety and the urgent need to keep two parallel roads.

West River Parkway and West River Road run parallel to each other and are separated by a grass median.

But the Niagara Falls Reporter has uncovered what appears to be the true motive of the loud and critical group.

The real reason homeowners on West River Road object to the bike path and what might consequently be the opening up to the public of some eight miles of waterfront along state lands –- is that these same residents are using the lands as their own private parkland!

That’s right, the Reporter has discovered that dozens of homeowners on West River Road – the same ones who are objecting – have quietly built docks, patios, picnic areas, camp sites and fire pits on state land – some even added sand for their own private beaches – well hidden behind the brush and foliage that separates West River Parkway from their secret waterfront getaways along the river.

The residents of the ritzy homes on West River Road have only to walk a hundred feet across their own hardly trafficked road – then the grass median – then across hardly trafficked West River Parkway to enter into their own private paradise – one virtually never used by outsiders – their tax free, state-owned private waterfront destination.

The Reporter also learned there is an unspoken agreement that each homeowner on West River Road uses the state-owned area of waterfront across from their own house – using state land as if it were an extension of their own private property.

Some West River Road residents are so territorial that reports have emerged of them threatening visitors with trespassing despite the fact that it is state land and anyone can use it.

Naturally the plan to convert the high speed but little utilized West River Parkway to a bike path will make these folks unhappy – taking away exclusive use of their private beaches, fishing docks, and camp sites they built there, since a new bike path will bring new people, and when bikers stop and get off their bikes and wander along the waterfront they will impose their presence upon residents who have previously enjoyed the waterfront all to themselves.

People from Grand Island who never experienced the marvelous west branch of the Niagara will hop on bikes and bring picnic lunches and stop and gambol along the waterfront which heretofore has been enjoyed only by a few.

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Some residents want to keep Grand Island as it is. The state has proposed a bike bath along the west branch of the Niagara River.
Some residents want to keep Grand Island as it is. The state has proposed a bike bath along the west branch of the Niagara River.

People from elsewhere may come too – “off-islanders” as some residents provincially describe people who don’t live on Grand Island  – to enjoy the spectacular scenery now enjoyed exclusively by a handful of West River Road residents.

Until we examined the area ourselves, the Reporter had no idea as to the extent residents on West River Road utilize the state-owned waterfront.

Some residents have even placed “Private Property” signs on their buildings and docks on state land as if they would ward off other owners of the land (i.e the public) from realizing it is their property, too.

As the pictures show, the high-sounding moralistic and bombastic opponents of the bike path who live on West River Road have a clear motive in so doing.

For people on bikes, stopping to rest and picnic is just the beginning.

Once the vista is opened up, and becomes known, people will come by car and stay to enjoy the day along the waterfront, swimming and fishing, canoeing and hiking.

The wealthy West River Road residents will perforce be sharing parkland with other, plain folk.

The well-to-do people on West River Road know full well – what they have all to themselves today may tomorrow be a world class park.

And what they know – but will not admit –  is that the beginning of the end of their exclusive use of the west branch of the Niagara River starts with the bike path proposal which links Buckhorn Island State Park, at the northern end of the island, to Beaver Island State Park at the southern end, by converting West River Parkway, which runs the entire 8-mile length of the western Grand Island shoreline.

The establishment of the bike path will open up an entire new waterfront vista for Grand Island residents, greater Western New York community and tourists from around the world as it becomes better known.

In time, it may become a world class park rivaling some of the other notable natural state parks in the area such as Whirlpool, Devil’s Hole, The Old Fort Niagara and Artpark, and serve as a tourist “stay extender” for some of the eight million people who visit the Niagara Falls State Park and promptly leave town right afterward.

You have to imagine the vista: eight miles of some of the most beautiful river frontage in the whole world, heretofore almost unexplored and unknown.

This kind of waterfront is extremely rare in the world.

Such an expansion of unused and gorgeous waterfront in Western New York (the kind of waterfront other cities make fortunes from) will rain on the private parade of West River Road residents now quietly enjoying land they don’t own.

Still, the arguments the NIMBY’s use – everything but the truth – to fight the bike path  – are preposterous.

If West River Rd residents would simply say, “Hey, we want to selfishly enjoy this state-owned land all to ourselves forever  – stay away you ‘off-islanders!’” one could respect their honesty.

As it is, it’s downright deceptive when they claim they don’t want the bike path because it’s a safety concern or that there is a need for both roads.

The truth is West River Parkway and West River Road are redundant, running parallel to each other along the entire distance between the two state parks.

The parkway (high speed, limited access) carries a tiny fraction of the traffic it was designed for. It has so little traffic it is not even plowed in winter. 

Grand Island Councilman Mike Madigan –  the leader of the NIMBY voices – declared at a September town board meeting that the project had “taken Islanders by surprise” and led the town board to schedule a “public input meeting” at which residents can speak out in favor of a new, rather insane alternative, the so-called “4th option” to the bike path.

Madigan’s whacky “Option 4”, which is gaining support among the homeowners on West River Road, is – if we must have a bike path – because the state is forcing it on us  – let’s make it so that nobody will want to use it.

Construct the bike path between West River Road and West River Parkway in the middle where the grassy median is now and keep both roads open.

“I think we need to design it with (Grand Island) residents in mind, more so than off­-islanders,” Madigan told the Buffalo News, “Will off-­islanders come? Yes. Will they come in droves? I don’t think so.”

“Option 4 does not concentrate/consolidate all traffic on one road increasing risk of accidents,” said Madigan despite the fact that only a couple thousand vehicles a day utilize the West River Parkway, or a little over one per minute.

Following Madigan’s assertion to its logical conclusion, we should have two parallel, redundant roads to everywhere, then there’d be no accidents, ever.

“(O)ption 4 is in close proximity to residents, greatly increasing likelihood of use by them,” Madigan argues for his NIMBY’s.

The argument is preposterous. Who honestly thinks bicyclists prefer to bike between two active roadways in close proximity to the driveways, mailboxes and houses of West River Road, rather than a natural, peaceful bike trail next to the river?

The next town meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, at the Grand Island High School, 1100 Ransom Road in the main auditorium. 

Expect a cadre of NIMBY homeowners on West River Road to tell everything but the truth – which is that they secretly use the land they don’t want anybody else to use.

Bet you thought this was private property? Well it is not.
Bet you thought this was private property? Well it is not.
This is state-owned land along the west branch of the Niagara River which residents of West River Road have quietly usurped as their own private waterfront retreats.
This is state-owned land along the west branch of the Niagara River which residents of West River Road have quietly usurped as their own private waterfront retreats.

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  1. Thank you for this article! These spoiled children want their toys all to themselves under the argument that they pay “big taxes” to monopolize an entire half of the island. They only pay $1200 more than I do and I live by the high school and don’t get a day about what happens across the street from my house. I met a few of these peaches and they are rude and use veiled racist terms like “off-islander”. Their second biggest fear are “people from the city” coming to their precious street. I can’t wait to ride safely with my family and watch the sunset on the West River.

  2. You hit the nail on the head. You cut through all the nonsense that the West River Road residents have been spewing about safety blah blah blah. They just want to continue with their free lunch. All but 14 of the docks are ILLEGAL. And every “no trespassing” sign is illegal. I do not understand why the parks police choose to ignore this situation. Every New York State taxpayer should be infuriated by this. I live on West River Road, and I am looking forward to the conversion of the parkway to a multi use trail. I want everyone to be able to enjoy the beautiful area that I have enjoyed since 1993.

  3. Wow! Talk about falsehoods and Lies! There are so many I don’t know where to begin! How about the attack on the “ritzy homes” “wealthy west river homeowners” and “well to do people”. Do i detect little jealousy? Many of the homes on west river are 60 years old or more. many are just cottages added on to or updated. Yes there are some newer and nicer homes but come on, take another look without bias.
    How about “world class park” really? Whats wrong with Beaver Island? It didn’t make your list,neither did Buckhorn.
    People with docks have to go through a procedure to build them. Them must show proof of Insurance, and get Permits for a fee which are renewed each year from NYS parks and the US Army Corps of engineers. And yes the docks are private property(but not the land).
    The parkway was plowed years ago until the state claimed they didn’t have the funds to plow it anymore or to cut the grass more than twice a year. Thats why homeowners now cut the grass median themselves, sometimes paying people to do it!
    The west river parkway has never been closed to the public. The residents are not “selfish”! The 3 overlook parking areas are specifically for anyone who wants to park and enjoy the area however they want.
    To call Mr Madigan’s plan “insane” and “wacky” is very uninformed and malicious.The plan is a much better and safer plan for all.
    Numerous high speed bike riders have stated repeatedly that they will not use a bike path due to safety concerns for themselves and others. They will continue to use the West river service road, which they have stated is one of the best bike paths on the island as it is now.
    When West River scenic Parkway was built in the 1950’s the population on Grand Island was little over 3000. The currant population is around 20,000. What will it be 5,10 or more years from now? Are we looking to the future? Is putting more and more traffic on a residential street going to make it more safe?

  4. Are you freaking kidding me?!? The right to use the riverfront property (docks, etc.) was taken from homeowners via Eminent Domain. Those people with docks on West River are not selfish, they are utilizing what little they were promised when the State of NY stole from them without fulfilling all the promises that were made decades ago. Still those homeowners are required to file a permit annually to maintain those docks, put them in each spring and retrieve them each fall, at their own expense, acknowledging that this is on state property. The reality is out of hundreds of home owners along West River, only a few dozen actually maintain docks.
    The eight mile stretch from Beaver Island to Buckhorn State Park is utilized daily by hundreds of visitors. Do your own fact checking, don’t believe what you read on the internet. Those homeowners are not selfish in anyway. If you are not familiar, there are three overlooks; long standing in place without objection. Please go there for a picnic or family reunion or a wedding photo, people do it almost every weekend. I see them nearly every day from may house, I am not selfish.
    Please don’t claim that my property is tax free; it is of the highest taxed homes of it’s like on the island. I am not “of the well to do to” and to judge me so based my address is ignorant.
    So to the author of this article, I welcome you to spend 16 years living in my neighborhood, raising small children with the threat of an instant increase of 8:1 traffic on your previously tranquil road.

  5. Have fun riding up and down those inclines, fuck your bike path . And it’s not even about the waterfront property, those are people’s homes.

  6. I’m not sure what the home owners’ use of the waterfront has to do with closing the parkway to automobile traffic. That stinks of sour grapes. I grew up on the Island and have always loved the drive on the parkway. I look at all the changes that have been made to “improve” an area- Downtown Niagra Falls, Buffalo’s Main St. turned into a pedestrian only street. BOTH have which failed miserably. Leading to the economic downfall of NF and the reversal of the pedestrian walkway in Buffalo. IF IT’S NOT BROKE DON’T FIX IT! The only people who will “benefit” by changing the accessability to the West River Parkway change are a few cycling enthusiasts who have plenty of bike lanes already. Those of us who appreciate the ride from the north end of the Island to the south end will FOREVER be deprived of this pleasure. I DO NOT live on West River and have no other interest in this issue except that the forces that be seem to be trading one group’s interest for another. Those people who cannot ride a bike or walk the path will no longer have the pleasure of the West River Parkway and the lovely overlooks they once enjoyed. This us just SO WRONG

  7. Not a factual reporting but sounds like one writer has an opinion about land owners who they don’t know. Would you like your neighbor hood altered to the likes of this? Not one bike path I have ever seen is a two lane highway and it always seems to be placed a distance from homes and not obstructing the view. And one last thing you don’t seem to know most of the homeowners were forced to move their homes back from river front for the NY State Parks to put that parkway in. and the land between both roads is also state land which the homeowners are left to mow and upkeep if they want a well groomed view that they pay hefty taxes for!

  8. You are uninformed. Those docks are there because when the state took the land through eminent domain years ago those people were given the right to keep their existing docks. Check your facts. The residents living on west River are not against a bike path. They are opposed to the current parkway being closed. A bike path proposal was made using the grassy area between the two roads. It’s called compromise.

  9. I am an islander. Born and raised. Never left; just like many of you. People who live on the Island are two things. Stubborn and proud. Not always a good combo. I personally like the West River Drive, and I “take the long way” and consciously use the parkway just because its a nice 20 minute drive. I get the whole “if it ain’t broke” mentality we have as Islanders. I know several people who have tried to make changes on the Island ie, adding businesses and have been met by a TON of resistance….all of which was over “not changing our perfect little Island” , so I am not surprised in the least that our elected Supervisor walks into a buzz saw when he proposes a change such as this. While I would miss driving 55 mph 4 times a year down the West river…..if a bikepath gets people out, active, and enjoying my Island, plus gives me a place to go for a long ride with my kids and swim my dog at the same time, then sign me up. I would probably use it more often! I’ll tell you one thing, Now that I know that those private beaches are on state land….and I pay my taxes…..I can’t wait to watch one of those beautiful West river Sunsets down @ the waterfront that we ALL own.

  10. What a phoney article. Anyone can put a temporary dock on the West River. Years ago, before I bought property on the East River I had a temporary dock on the West River when I lived in an apartment on Bedell Rd. Furthermore that No Tresspassing sign was planted by the Naters. You Naters think you are so smart but actually your Notoo Sharp.

  11. I agree with all of the comments that have clarified the mis-informed report above. The west river homeowners have what is called riparian rights.

    Riparian water rights (or simply riparian rights) is a system for allocating water among those who possess land along its path. It has its origins in English common law. Riparian water rights exist in many jurisdictions with a common law heritage, such as Canada, Australia, and states in the eastern United States.

    Additionally, If you were to spend any amount of time on the west river you would see that the roads that currently exist are the home to many cyclists. There are many visitors to the water for fishing, kayaking, cycling, walking, and many other recreative activities that are currently enjoyed by non-homeowners DAILY. The space is shared. There is no reason to close the parkway to vehicle traffic. Makes no sense.

    Additionally, The area in not maintained by the State. The garbage is cleaned up by the West RIver Home Owners Association, who ALL also maintain the tree growth, the lawn maintenance and routine care of the area.

    The State also owns has Beaver Island – State Park – take a ride over there and share with me what they have done to maximize its use? It is just as accessible for biking etc… wehre are the kayak launches? Have you seen the golf course?

    I suggest you check your facts.

  12. Ralph, I almost fell on my chair laughing reading the end of your comment. “Notoo Sharp”, you wouldnt be refering to the disgraced former Republican and now appointed Supervisor, would you?

  13. Imagine a town supervisor who works full time for Delaware North, wanting to close a highway to create a “world class” park. It just so happens that his other boss (DelawareNorth) is in the business of developing National and State Parks to ” world class” status. Could that be influencing Mr McMurray’s enthusiasm? They used to call that a conflict of interest and therefore unethical. Matter of fact, this is the textbook definition!!

  14. What a phony article. Anyone can put a tempory dock on the West River. Just go down to the Park office and get a permit. I had a temporary dock year age when I lived in a appartment on Bedell rd. I befive the Private Property sign was planted by the Naters. You Naters think you are smart, but acyually you are Notoo Sharp.

  15. Ok, lets let the West River residents have their way and not put a bike path there. BUT, then lets have the state remove everything but trees and grass along that portion of the river in front of their homes. There, now everyone is unhappy, but it’s fair. Or, the State can offer to sell off those sections of river land to the owners at, let’s say $1M per homeowner. Gets money for the State, and riverfront property for the homeowner. The fact of the matter is, those homeowners do not own that property. They should not be allowed to build fire pits, beaches or anything else on it. If they want to take a few lawn chairs down there and watch boaters or the sunset, fine. But, haul the crap back home. Otherwise, it’s squatting.

  16. Yea Sharon…That they set up their little oasis’s and boat docs o state land…I for one will use the bike path…I welcome the inclines…Nice mature response by the way…Moron..

  17. The preserve the parkway people are pitiful. Spoiled children who think they have to right to monopolize public land. You should see these losers on their Facebook pages and petitions they think they live on the French Riviera and are rude as hell.

  18. You hit the nail on the head. You cut through all the nonsense that the West River Road residents have been spewing about safety blah blah blah. They just want to continue with their free lunch. All but 14 of the docks are ILLEGAL. And every “no trespassing” sign is illegal. I do not understand why the parks police choose to ignore this situation. Every New York State taxpayer should be infuriated by this. I live on West River Road, and I am looking forward to the conversion of the parkway to a multi use trail. I want everyone to be able to enjoy the beautiful area that I have enjoyed since 1993.

  19. Did Mr. McMurray have this ghost written for him? The West River home owners want a bike path. Mr. Madigan’s proposal is not un-reasonable. I think that the West River home owners would like to keep it pristine and not developed like Canal Side (currently starting to experience major public issues) or like Niagara Falls, and not the Canadian side, as we all know what downtown Niagara Falls is, outside of small pockets of barely developed tourist attractions. If you look across the river on the Western Shores of Grand Island, to the Canadian side, what do you see. Nature, the Canadians know how to do it correctly. This is not to mention the proposal to develop the land, marina’s, restaurants, yurts, who knows what else, waterslides and Coney Island rides? There has been no mention of what the 4-6 year plan is. AND when Mr McMurray was questioned on it, he deflected. At least the homeowners in that area should know what’s going to happen to them. I will not even bring up the Administrative changes CBSA has imposed on border crossings on the Western Shore. Please sir go for a kayak ride 50 yards off shore, see how well you are welcomed by RCMP, CBSA or Canadian Coast Guard.

  20. Residents were “grand fathered” the right to docks. I don’t live on W River but I would love a slice of private water access. Maybe the rest of the Islanders can set up decks, chairs etc. Option 4 is nonsensical and unsafe.

    The waterfront is for all the enjoy, not just WR residents. Come on bike path !! Can’t wait !!!

  21. Wow, who are you to call West River residents all rich? I have worked and paid taxes my whole life to live in my house. The West River Parkway is State land “greenspace” that anyone can use. I watch horseback riders, dog walkers, joggers, bikes, car enthusiast , motorcycles, scooters, snowmobilers, snowshoers, scuba divers, picnickers, swimmers, kayakers etc….all currently able to use this space through out the year. If the parkway becomes a world class park all we will have is more government, park police and rules telling many people what they CANNOT do. Closing the parkway benefits only the few, not the many! Also, I am sure that the West River residents will continue to maintain the grass, clear brush, clean garbage etc.. as the state owns it now and doesn’t do it.

  22. I was born and raised on Grand Island but moved out of state about 17 years ago. But I agree with the person that said driving the parkway is something many GI residents do for fun/relaxation, not only that but the difference in speed is an issue as well, if you close down the parkway to traffic then you only have a 35 mph road for the entire 8 miles, I delivered food for a restaurant on GI for many years and being able to hop on the parkway and do 50 mph made my job much easier. For “off Islanders” who want to enjoy the view, there are the two overlooks.

  23. I’m not sure if this article was meant for everybody’s column or your local high school newspaper, but some one did not do their homework. First it’s NIMFY not NIMBY for front yard not back yard. Second, not all the residents are rich as you proclaim. Most are hard working 2 income families that have worked hard and invested in their house. Just think maybe some day when you grow up and become a reporter and work at a real newspaper you can become a home owner also.

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