By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Funding through the Niagara River Greenway Commission is being put to good use along the City of Tonawanda’s shoreline, with contractors now on site repairing the effects of water and wind erosion.
“They have started work and are cutting out rebar and concrete slabs,” City Engineer Jason LaMonaco said. “They will be preparing the shoreline and controlling for additional erosion.”
Construction will continue throughout the winter, and is being handled by The Environmental Service Group Inc. Vegetation work and planting of dogwoods and vines is set to take place in the spring.
The city is currently under contract for work to be completed on 700 feet of shoreline, largely behind city hall, and is paying the company $73,212.50 for the job.
City officials praised the initiative at the council’s meeting Dec. 4.
“It really looks beautiful down there,” Councilman Richard Slisz said. “The removal of the rebar makes it safe for the kids, too.”
And recently, the Department of Environmental Conservation approved a permit that will extend the work to the boat launch for a total of 1,700 feet to be stabilized.
But the work on the additional 1,000 feet won’t take place for at least a year, officials said.
“We are hoping for next fall,” LaMonaco said. “But it could take 18 months or two years.”
The delay is partially due to seasonal constraints, LaMonaco explained.
“During the summer, we don’t want to interfere with pedestrian traffic,” he said. “And we’re not allowed to go near the water in the spring, because they don’t want us interfering with minnows that will be there.”
Those restrictions are compounded by the city waiting for grant money for the project. State Sen. Antoine Thompson’s office had awarded the city $250,000 for the project, but the city still needs to receive approval on the distribution agreement, and complete a State Environmental Quality Review before beginning work.
“All of it depends on when we get the grant distribution approval,” LaMonaco said. “The way it’s been going with the state, it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s too late to start next fall. But we are kind of hoping to get it during the summertime.”
The city also received $250,000 from the Niagara Greenway Commission for the project. The commission has provided funding for a number of projects, including the handicap-accessible Eastern Park kayak launch, newly installed in August, and the pavilion, a $1.2 million project that is nearing completion.
LaMonaco has completed his final walkthrough of the pavilion and contractors just need to complete punch list items before it is officially complete.
“They are basically housekeeping things,” he said.
LaMonaco also updated the council on yet another project, Rails for Trails, at the Dec. 4 meeting.
The project has been in the works since the 1980s and if it comes to fruition, will convert old railroad tracks to bike paths, running from the City of Buffalo to Tonawanda.
LaMonaco and Brian Rose, of the Erie County Department of Public Works, have been looking at two route options.
At the meeting, LaMonaco said one option, that would take bikers over Fremont Street bridge and onto Fillmore Avenue, won’t work.
“The path wouldn’t be wide enough there,” he said.
Instead, the path will likely end on Young Street, with bike racks being installed near Smoke on the Water and parking options at the nearby municipal lot.
The city will likely not be responsible for the funding of the project, with the majority of money coming from the federal government.Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.