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Copelin: Jayne Park Should Not be Paved

By Lori Lane

"We think it would be a shame to lose these funds and the good that can come from spending them on the right things," said Cheree Copelin, pictured here at Jayne Park. Copelin has promised she will fight to ensure Jayne Park remains a quiet neighborhood park.

At the top of Cayuga Island is Jayne Park. It is a neighborhood park. The Dyster administration has presented plans to make it a regional park

Nearby Griffon Park shows what a shoreline after it is converted for boat launches.

Jayne Park, a pastoral sanctuary along the southern shores of the Little River, should not be paved, said Cheree Copelin, the county lawmaker who represents the area.

Copelin has been working to support a Greenway grant, long planned for the City of Niagara Falls, for "improvements" to the only park on Cayuga Island, a quiet, mainly middle-class residential island, lined with more expensive homes facing the Niagara River.

The original plan, as proposed by Senior City Planner Thomas DeSantis, will convert Jayne Park from a quiet neighborhood park into a regional park that would attract visitors and tourists alike.

With approximately 25 acres of rolling grass and stately trees and more than a thousand feet of frontage along the picturesque Little River, Jayne Park has been used mainly by residents of Cayuga Island, who walk there from their homes, ever since it was dedicated as a park in 1937.

Perhaps unknown to most, Jayne Park's shoreline has been identified as an ancient marsh, containing the same rare species of plant life mirrored in the Niagara Gorge. The park is in the heart of the Audubon Flyway and a federally designated Important Bird Area.

The DeSantis-designed Greenway proposal would necessarily disturb some of the irreplaceable marsh habitat in order to build canoe launches. Other aspects of the plan include a large parking lot, grey asphalt trails that cut through the now all-green park, restrooms and basketball courts.

Copelin, who lives on the island, like most of her neighbors, is opposed to much of the plan and told the Reporter, “I will not allow any plan that includes adding parking to Jayne Park. Jayne Park is special precisely because it’s not an overcrowded urban park and my neighbors and I want to keep it that way.”

Copelin is also against the canoe launch.

“Residents of Cayuga Island didn’t want that,” Copelin said. “There are opportunities to launch a canoe right across [Little River] in Griffon Park."

One part of the plan, the installation of trails, Copelin does support.

“A walking path along the river’s edge, leading to an overlook of the water... will give people better access to the river and a chance to take in the full beauty of the park,” she said.

Copelin began developing a petition - now with more than 200 signatures - following a series of neighborhood meetings last fall urging the city to make changes to the original proposed project, but to secure the $145,000 Greenway grant which, she said, expires at the end of this year.

The grant requires a matching $145,000 investment from the city.

"Spend the money already earmarked for Jayne Park,” Copelin said. “But spend the funds based on the priorities of the people who live on Cayuga Island. Clean up the waterway-that is, the Little River-and remove dead trees. Install benches and picnic tables. Put in a playground.”

As county legislator, Copelin would have only an advisory role.

In the past, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster has been a staunch advocate of the original plan and weathered several stormy protest meetings of Cayuga Island residents in 2009.

An attendee of those meetings, island resident Penny Conley, said, “The first plan was drafted by City Hall. It never took us into account. This [new] plan was drafted by the people that actually live out here.”

Patricia Castillo, who also lives on the island and is chair of the Niagara Falls Republican Committee, agrees with Copelin's initiative.

"I love Jayne Park just the way it is," Castillo said. "But Cheree is doing the right thing. We need to get rid of some dead trees and deadfall. We need to remove some debris. We need to clean up the Little River."


Cayuga Island Residents Must be Vigilant to Keep Jayne Park a Neighborhood Park

At the end of the day, Cayuga Island residents will have to be vigilant to ensure they do not get more than they bargained for.

The original grant is based in large part on Jayne Park being an addition to the "Blueway (canoe) Trail," a network of interconnected riparian parks and public green spaces, with amenities, such as walking trails, restrooms, and picnic and parking areas that encourage visitation.

Paul Dyster has been a leading advocate of the Blueway Trail, even prior to his becoming mayor.

If the city accepts the grant, Dyster will have $290,000 in hand and he must spend it on Jayne Park.

Keeping the neighborhood character of Jayne Park intact, as the neighbors wish, by merely removing dead trees, cleaning up the river, adding benches, picnic tables, a playground and a walking trail, even with Dyster's high priced Buffalo consultants and Buffalo contractors, will not cost $290,000 and leave Dyster with money to spend on Jayne Park.

How will he spend it?



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

AUG 13, 2013