Assemblyman John Ceretto (R,I-Lewiston) and Senator George Maziarz (R-Newfane) today sent a letter to New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey in order to find out what steps her department is taking to revitalizing state parks throughout Niagara County and to win support for legislation to restructure the state’s funding to provide more local control over park resources and revenues.
The letter follows a meeting between Ceretto, Harvey, state Senator George Maziarz, and Lewiston Town Supervisor Steve Reiter held in June in which $3 million in improvement funds were committed to Niagara Falls State Park. The proposed transfer of Joseph Davis Park, as well as legislation to allow Niagara Falls State Park to retain more of its own revenue, also was discussed.
“It has been nearly four months since our meeting with Commissioner Harvey and I believe the community has the right to know how the parks department’s $3 million has been used to improve Niagara Falls State Park,” said Ceretto. “Niagara Falls State Park and other state parks are important parts of our region’s tourism industry and there needs to be a comprehensive plan adopted on how the state and local governments maintain these local treasures.”
“For too long we have seen parks across the river in Canada thrive, while ours fall into disrepair,” said Maziarz. “Albany needs to make similar investments in the region’s parks to help us compete more effectively for tourist dollars or allow the Legislature to alter the funding structure of the parks to give locals more control over the maintenance of our parks.”
To address a lack of funding for the region’s state parks, Assemblyman Ceretto and Senator Maziarz have proposed legislation to make New York State pay property taxes on its parkland, which is currently done in 13 other locations across New York State. Their Niagara Parks Reinvestment Act also would allow Niagara Falls State Park to keep a portion of its parking revenue to undertake park improvements.
Assemblyman Cerretto and Senator Maziarz also would like to know how the New York State park’s department is utilizing the $3 million it receives each year from the Niagara River Greenway Commission. To that end, the lawmakers are requesting a detailed itemization of how that funding has been used each of the past 10 years.
“The Niagara River Greenway funding is specifically meant for Niagara County, and we want to ensure the money is being used as it is intended, to enhance Western New York and the region’s parks,” said Ceretto.
Ms. Rose Harvey
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Empire State Plaza
Agency Building 1
Albany, NY 12238
October 19, 2011
Dear Commissioner Harvey,
In late June, as the 2011 session was wrapping up, you met with us and Lewiston Town Supervisor Steve Reiter, to discuss the shabbiness of Niagara Falls State Park, the proposed transfer of Joseph Davis, and several proposals to allow Niagara Falls State Park to retain more of its own revenue.
In that meeting you committed to an immediate infusion of $3 million into Niagara Falls State Park in order to begin park improvements. We would like to know specifically how that money has been spent. In addition, you committed your department to finding a long-term funding solution. After four months, we would be interested in hearing it and working with you and your department to put that plan into action.
Here in Niagara County we can boast of some of the most remarkable parks in the country, parks that bring millions of people to New York State and Western New York each year. Yet, we see parks just across the river in Canada thrive while ours fall into disrepair. We see only one solution to this problem: to alter the funding structure of Niagara Falls State Park.
We have proposed legislation in the Assembly and Senate which would compel New York State to pay property taxes on the parkland. This is already done in 13 other park sites across the Empire State. This additional revenue would allow the City of Niagara Falls and Niagara County the resources to develop along the park grounds. We have also proposed the Niagara Parks Reinvestment Act, to allow Niagara Falls State Park to keep a portion of its parking revenue, revenue that is inherently unique to that park, in order to undertake park improvements. These measures would allow Niagara Falls State Park, our nation’s oldest state park, to flourish like its counterparts in Canada.
Finally, it is our understanding that New York State parks receive $3 million each year from the Niagara River Greenway Commission. This money, as we understand it, goes into the state parks general fund. We would like a detailed itemization of how that $3 million has been spent each of the past 10 years. This is money that is specifically meant for Niagara County and we would like to ensure it is being well spent.
Commissioner, it is very troubling to us to see the shape the parks in Niagara County are in. Trails are not being maintained, buildings are being abandoned and no one can seem to figure out who is responsible for cutting the grass. Our parks are a great resource for my constituents and many tourists from across the world. They serve as a destination for tourists, a recreation center for our residents and an economic engine for the region.
We look forward to receiving your correspondence detailing how the Niagara River Greenway Commission dollars are spent and how your plan for greater investment in Niagara Falls State Park is developing.
John D. Ceretto
George D. Maziarz