Invites Public to “Come and Enjoy” the Glorious Eight Miles of West River
By Bonnie Fitzgerald
West River Rd. Resident
Grand Island NY — In connection with the debate raging about the proposed West River Parkway bike path, we believe that the recent article entitled “The Great Nimby” was written in poor taste, biased, one-sided and unequivocally not true. Unfortunately, it has incited anger and hatred toward us, and we would like to tell you our side of the story.
The residents of West River are kind, generous, hardworking people who are by no means rich or wealthy. We take great pride in where we live and are the true groundskeepers of West River. That special area of Grand Island looks as beautiful as it does only because of us. After a long week of work and running the kids to various activities, we clean our houses, trim the bushes, pull the weeds, wash the windows and mow our lawns. Once we are done with all of our own household chores, we cross the street to mow the land that is supposedly being maintained by New York State. If we didn’t do this, the grass would be waist high nearly all summer, and filled with rodents and snakes. A number of us also take out the vegetation permits in spring and fall that allow us to trim trees and clear the brush by the river’s edge. In the spring, many West River homeowners walk along the shore to clean up the garbage that appears after a long winter. Our tax dollars are supposed to go toward the maintenance of this area, but we have been told by the NYS Office of Parks that its budget permits only TWO grass cuttings a year. But we don’t complain; we just keep working to maintain its beauty for all to enjoy.
Apparently there is a gross misconception that this area is closed off to anyone but West River residents. That is simply not true. It is a shame more Islanders don’t come and enjoy the beauty and wonder West River offers. It seems to be that Grand Island residents aren’t the only ones who embrace this area, because those of us who live on West River see many other people from all over the world who do come to enjoy its splendor. A great number of “Dip & Dive” scuba divers enjoy our river every weekend, as well as kayakers, fishermen, duck hunters, snowmobile riders, novice & street racer bicyclists, cross country skiers, horseback riders, teenagers with dirt bikes and quads, dog walkers, joggers and bird watchers, just to name a few.
Several years ago Grand Island’s then-Supervisor Mary Cooke applied for grant money from the Greenway Commission. Many months later they met with homeowners of West River to discuss the proposed plan to put a bike path along the river’s edge. At no point did we say “no” to the proposed bike path. We did, however, ask a few important questions. Who is going to maintain this bike path? Is there enough money left after all the consulting fees to finish the project are taken out? And what will happen to this bike path project if the funds run out before it is finished? The Greenway Commission and State Parks told us that “the bike path will end when the money runs out!” Our reaction was one of complete disbelief. They said if the money runs out, even if unfinished, we will have a bike path to nowhere. Most Islanders are unaware of this because they have not attended the meetings, and apparently it is easier for them to point fingers at us and call us names instead of looking into the details of the situation.
If this goes through, our greatest fear is that we will end up like the so-called “world-class bike path” in Niagara Falls. The Robert Moses Parkway (running from the Niagara Falls State Park along the Niagara Gorge past Whirlpool State Park to Devil’s Hole State Park) is a deserted wasteland. It is overgrown and you can’t even see the beautiful gorge that faces Canada. Go any day of the week, at any time of day, and most likely no one is using it.
Thankfully, we do have another option called “Share the Road.” Cities and towns across America have already embraced this concept and it could work beautifully here. We think it would make both sides of this very heated topic very happy. Weekday commuters would still be able to use the road as usual on Monday through Friday, and then it would “close” for the weekend. It would be open on weekend days from 7 am on Saturday to 7 pm on Sunday only for pedestrian and bicycle use in addition to other special events. There would be no extra burden on taxpayers; the only cost would be for eight barriers and a few posted signs. In addition, there would be plenty of money left to finish the bike path that ends at Bedell Road. That bike path could be placed parallel to the power lines that run through the more heavily populated part of the Island, and would be more accessible to all who wish to use it.
Thank you for reading this to the end, and we hope you found it informative. As always, we welcome all of you to this beautiful eight-mile stretch of Grand Island and the Niagara River; please come and enjoy!