Goal is to en­hance pos­i­tive fea­tures of parks

The Buffalo News - - PARK REC­OM­MEN­DA­TIONS -

“You could put every Olm­sted park in the City of Buf­falo into Chest­nut Ridge alone and you’d still have 200 acres left over,” Polon­carz said of the county park in Or­chard Park.

The county spent $500,000 in grant and cap­i­tal project money for an in-depth mas­ter plan in­volv­ing four con­sult­ing firms. The con­sul­tants of­fered both over­ar­ch­ing rec­om­men­da­tions and park-spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tions.

Among the broader rec­om­men­da­tions:

• Stop mow­ing ev­ery­thing. Al­low many of the mowed park ar­eas that aren’t used by park visi­tors to grow back out into nat­u­ral ar­eas, sup­port­ing wildlife and cut­ting down on la­bor costs.

• Pro­tect his­toric struc­tures in the her­itage parks. Re­pair De­pres­sion-era stone park struc­tures, build­ings and shel­ters. The pro­posed 2019 cap­i­tal bud­get ear­marks $300,000 for this work.

• Help peo­ple find what al­ready ex­ists. Add more at­trac­tive en­trance­ways, signs and trail mark­ers so peo­ple can bet­ter nav­i­gate the parks, find trails and ap­pre­ci­ate what’s in front of them. Next year’s bud­get pro­posal al­lo­cates $400,000 for this pri­or­ity.

Park visi­tors can ex­pect to see th­ese three rec­om­men­da­tions im­ple­mented over the next year or two, said Parks Com­mis­sioner Daniel Rizzo.

Some note­wor­thy, site-spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tions range from adding camp­ground sites at Sprague Brook Park in Con­cord and se­cu­rity cam­eras to Times Beach Na­ture Pre­serve to restor­ing the his­toric Wendt Man­sion at Wendt Beach Park in Evans, a longer-term goal that would re­quire $2.4 mil­lion that the county would un­likely pony up it­self.

Other rec­om­men­da­tions, smaller in scale, call for re­strip­ing un­der­used ten­nis courts for pick­le­ball, en­larg­ing or adding land­scap­ing to park­ing lots, and ad­dress­ing ero­sion along park shore­lines.

Find spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tions for county parks near you on this in­ter­ac­tive map (story con­tin­ues):

The over­all goal of the re­vised mas­ter plan is not to over­haul or rein­vent the parks, but to en­hance the pos­i­tive fea­tures the parks al­ready have, said Dean Gowen, a se­nior land­scape ar­chi­tect with Amherst-based Wen­del Cos. who served as project man­ager for the mas­ter plan up­date.

“We’ve got some­thing pretty spe­cial now,” he said. “We un­der­stand that. We think the pub­lic agrees.”

As far as park ad­min­is­tra­tion, the plan rec­om­mends the county be­gin charg­ing some per­mit and event fees for out­side groups that want to host events on park prop­erty.

The plan also rec­om­mends cut­ting and re­mov­ing both “low value” trees and high­er­value hard­woods like cherry Le­gend trees and ash trees harmed by the emer­ald ash borer. It rec­om­mends ac­tive tree re­moval in about 20 lo­ca­tions among the county’s 13 for­est lots as part of an over­all for­est man­age­ment plan. Tree cut­ting would open up the canopy, en­cour­age new trees to grow and pro­vide some rev­enue to the county, ac­cord­ing to the draft plan. It also calls for clear­ing trees that have sprouted in for­est lots’ fire breaks.

Polon­carz and Rizzo said the pri­or­ity would be clear­ing the fire breaks and re­mov­ing trees de­stroyed by emer­ald ash bor­ers. Any other tree cut­ting would be con­sid­ered “down the line.” The county’s forestry lots were last logged as part of a con­tro­ver­sial ef­fort dur­ing the Gi­ambra ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“Peo­ple are like, ‘No, you should never touch your for­est.’ Well, that’s not proper for­est man­age­ment,” Polon­carz said. “Some­times you have to go in and take out trees to main­tain other trees.”

County of­fi­cials and con­sul­tants pointed to mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar in­vest­ments al­ready made in the parks in re­cent years, of­ten with the help of com­mu­nity part­ners. They in­clude new Fris­bee disc golf courses, trail ex­ten­sions, dog parks and ranger pro­grams.

Some of the work ahead in­volves more cleanup work, he said. That in­cludes re­mov­ing old back­stops from de­te­ri­o­rated or non-ex­is­tent ball fields, repur­pos­ing un­used ath­letic courts and tak­ing down un­safe play­ground equip­ment. Polon­carz said he’d err on the con­ser­va­tive side for what needs to go.

Three hear­ings were sched­uled for pub­lic feed­back to the pro­posed plan. The last is sched­uled from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 15 in the Como Lake Park casino in Lan­caster.

Mas­ter plan doc­u­ments can be found on the Erie County web­site at erie.gov/Park­sPlanUp­date.

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