Parkway meeting draws a crowd in Orleans County

By on November 28, 2016

Residents, community leaders, and county and state lawmakers are vowing to continue their fight for repairs to the Lake Ontario State Parkway in Orleans County.

The Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association (OONA) hosted a meeting at Point Breeze November 14 to discuss the future of the Parkway.  New York State Department of Transportation’s Region 4 director Kevin Bush and State Senator Robert Ortt, R-Tonawanda, attended the meeting which drew more than 100 people.

This past summer, the state announced there is paving planned for eastern sections of the Parkway – from Payne Beach west to Route 19 – which will be paved next summer, and the portion from Hamlin west to Route 237 in Kendall, will be paved in 2018.

Members of OONA have said that still does not address the horrific conditions of the Parkway west of Route 237 to Lakeside Beach Park in Carlton.

Orleans County Legislator Ken DeRoller, who represents the towns of Kendall and Carlton, tells the Suburban News/Hamlin-Clarkson Herald that the November 14 meeting was very positive. He says he expects Senator Ortt will be very helpful on the state level. “We’ve been to Albany two times,” DeRoller says. “The State Assembly can be overwhelming … we are now operating at the Senate level, which may give us a better shot.”

DeRoller explains that although the November 14 meeting went well, those advocating for improvements west of Route 237 have, “a ways to go.” He said the Parkway is owned by the State Department of Parks and Recreation, but is maintained by the state DOT.

The challenge for improving the Parkway west of Route 237 lies in convincing the DOT that it is, “more than a highway,” DeRoller says.

Traffic counts on the Parkway pale in comparison to Routes 18 and 104, but DeRoller points out the Parkway is not open to commercial traffic as it was constructed to provide motorists with scenic vista views of Lake Ontario.  “It’s like comparing apples to oranges,” he says of traffic volume counts.

DeRoller argues the value of the parkway lies mainly as a draw for tourists.He observes that the Parkway connects two state parks which are 15 miles apart along the southern shore of Lake Ontario – Lakeside Beach State Park and Hamlin Beach State Park.

According to DeRoller, Lakeside Beach is a 744-acre park which saw more than  77,000 visitors in 2014. It has 274 campsites and four miles of hiking and biking, cross country and snowmobile trails.  Hamlin Beach is 1,287 acres and saw more than 278,000 visitors in 2014. It has 264 campsites and six miles of hiking, biking, cross country and snowmobile trails.

Additionally, DeRoller points out the Parkway recently made the 2016 list of the Landmark Society of Western New York’s Five to Revive list.

“We are losing the battle on car count,” DeRoller told members of the Kendall School Board of Education during their regular meeting November 16. “The value of the Parkway lies in its historic value (and its tourist draw) as a scenic byway.  We need to talk about tourism and quality of life.”

Kendall School Board President Nadine Hanlon attended the November 14 meeting at Point Breeze. She said the state continues to argue that there are no funds to continue repaving to Lakeside Beach, but OONA and community leaders would continue to advocate for funding. “Kevin Bush was impressed with the number of people who attended,” she said.

Kendall Jr./Sr. High School Principal Carol D’Agostino agreed. The DOT, “was clearly impressed with the number of people and the fact they were the right people (to be in attendance),” she said.  D’Agostino noted the meeting was very positive.

Members of the Kendall Town Board also attended the November 14 meeting and discussed their impressions during the regular Town Board meeting November 15.

Kendall Supervisor Tony Cammarata called the meeting, “refreshing.” He spoke during the OONA meeting and explained that in the Town of Kendall, the poor condition of the Parkway is an important safety concern.

“First responders are no longer taking the Parkway,” Supervisor Cammarata said.  That means it takes longer to get patients to hospitals on the west side of Rochester.  “I hope they (NYSDOT) take that into consideration,” Cammarata urged.  “Our main criteria is public safety.”