March 14, 2011
However, whether the project, first proposed in 2005 when the park was operated by the state, comes to fruition depends on the availability of funding, the possibility of a similar project in Erie County and the access to usable ground water.
Bill Hilts Jr., of Niagara County’s sportfishing promotion group said the project will help bring thousands of tourists to the area for a one-of-a-kind facility that will serve multiple functions.
Hilts said the facility, which would be funded through a combination of funding sources, including Niagara River Greenway money will serve as a hatchery for lake trout and a cultural research center for local colleges and educational institutions.
“The potential for this project is huge with (funding sources) like Niagara Greenway,” Hilts said. “It will become a major tourism destination.”
The first phase of the project is estimated to cost between $3 million and $4 million, with a total project costs of around $10 million, but that total is contingent upon the availability of useable ground water for the fish hatchery.
Another obstacle is a rumored similar project in Buffalo, Hilts said, adding if that facility is built, the potential funding sources or partnerships that may be available could become limited.
Lewiston board members said they’d like to move the project forward quickly and will begin an investigation of water sources at the park beginning later this week.
Town Board member Ron Winkley said the proposed project is just what he’d hope would become of the once shuttered park.
“It’s a perfect project that fits the park,” Winkley said.
The town recently agreed to a 10-year lease agreement with state parks to take over control of the park, which was a victim of state budget cuts and slated for closure.
The timeframe now depends on the findings of the town’s investigation, Town Supervisor Steve Reiter said, and once that happens the two parties would sit down and begin discussing funding opportunities.