Clarence's interest in developing a park in the northern part of the town has shifted from a 23-acre site on Tonawanda Creek to nearly 400 acres land-banked by Erie County for 30 years.
Clarence and county officials have already met once on the possibility of the town's acquiring the so-called Beeman Creek Park acreage, and a follow-up session is scheduled for Sept. 9, town officials said.
Meanwhile, a Clarence Town Board member said the board has not discussed naturalist developer Frank Parlato Jr.'s offer of a waterfront parcel on
Tonawanda Creek, although Parlato in January was promised an answer by June.
Beeman Creek Park -- a misnomer since it has yet to be developed as a park and is not open to the public -- is generally bounded by Lapp, Salt and Parker roads in the north-central part of town.
The county acquired the property in 1966 for about $ 90,000 in state and federal funds, land-banking it for a park.
Although the year 2002 is technically the target date for park development, an indefinite postponement would not be surprising, given the county's financial situation, officials say.
However, the town's interest in the county property doesn't mean that it has lost interest in Parlato's land at the end of Goodrich Road, across Tonawanda Creek from Niagara County, said Councilwoman Anne L. Case.
"We're looking at a lot of different things," Mrs. Case said. She added, however, that the board has not discussed Parlato's offer lately and probably will not do it anytime soon.
The subject of parklands will be one of many addressed in a forthcoming report by the Clarence Recreation Advisory Committee. The yearlong study, which had been due in June, now is not expected until fall.
However, at a time when the board is mulling future expansion of Town Hall and construction of a court facility and library, officials think that the simultaneous pursuit of two major land acquisitions is probably unlikely.
Clarence Supervisor Paul R. McCarthy, who suffered a heart attack in April, returned to work part time this week. He said Friday that he "definitely favors" Beeman Creek Park over the Parlato property.
Not only is the county parcel bigger than Parlato's, its location in the town's "north country" is closer to the population, McCarthy told The Buffalo News. For those and other reasons related to safety and security, he said, he opposes acquisition of the Parlato land.
Parlato in January proposed that the town develop "Canoe Point" on 23 acres of forest and meadowland on the town's northernmost border. The parcel has about 3,000 feet of creek frontage.
Parlato wants $ 50,000 for the land, the same price he sought in 1992 when the board rejected the offer in a split vote. Clarence has no other public access to the winding, scenic creek, Parlato noted.
If the town turns him down again, Parlato said, he plans to develop four five-acre building lots for homes and a pond while preserving the creek frontage and wooded part of the parcel.
Parlato is known across Western New York for planning developments that preserve trees and other natural features.
In 1992, the board turned down Parlato's offer by a 3-2 vote. Four of those board members are still around. They are Councilmen Daniel A. Herberger and John F. Love, who opposed the purchase, and Mrs. Case and Councilman Daniel M. Gregorio, who favored it.
Herberger and Love have said the drawbacks include price, location, security problems and insurance risk when the creek runs high. They apparently can count on the support of McCarthy, who became supervisor Jan. 1.
Clarence should buy Beeman Creek but keep it open to all
By Frank Parlato Jr.
August 10, 1996 , Saturday, FINAL EDITION
It's going to be discussed, on Sept. 9, whether Erie County's Beeman Creek Park site should be sold or given to the Town of Clarence to develop as a town park.
The land was acquired 30 years ago and land-banked for future use as a county park, to be developed in the year 2002.
With 400 acres, Beeman Creek could be a tremendous regional asset. However, the Town of Clarence, with six town parks, has a policy of excluding non-residents. Those who don't live in Clarence aren't supposed to go in their town parks. If Clarence acquired the Beeman site and developed it into a town park, would it be available for the entire county?
A deed restriction could solve the problem easily. To wit: The County of Erie deeds to the Town of Clarence Beeman Park on the condition that it always remains a park open to all residents of the county and their invitees, and it shall not be subdivided or any portion of the property sold.
With that proviso, as a taxpayer in Clarence, I would welcome the
acquisition of Beeman Creek Park by the town, especially if it meant that it would open this long-closed park site to the public quicker than the county will.
One can argue that 400 acres is unusually large for a town park. But much of the land can, and should, remain undeveloped -- as forest.
In regard to my own offer for a Clarence Town Park on Tonawanda Creek -- an offer that's been rejected twice and appears to be heading toward rejection a third time -- I'd like to respectfully ask the Town Council to reconsider buying the parcel.
It's not a massive 400-acre site, like Beeman Creek, which could
accommodate thousands, but a small, 23-acre park, about as big as the Buffalo Zoo. Its chief distinguishing feature is its access to the largest creek in Clarence -- Tonawanda Creek. What's particularly unique about this property is that, for its size, it has an enormous amount of creek frontage -- almost 3,000 feet. This is because the creek makes a reverse "L" bend and bounds the property on two sides.
There is a two-mile hiking and jogging trail, one that loops around the waterfront, through mature black walnut forest and open meadows and alongside the creek under a canopy of maple, ash and linden.
The property would require practically no development, unlike the huge Beeman site. A deed restriction I will place in my deed will ensure that it will not be overdeveloped: The old forest area will be forever protected.
The town would be buying, principally, access to the creek.
The two properties -- Beeman Creek and Canoe Point -- are not mutually exclusive. They're complementary.
The Beeman site provides a large, beautiful, all-purpose, recreational area. Nearby Canoe Point's 23 acres on the Tonawanda Creek offer one thing that the Beeman site cannot: waterfront recreation for serious canoeists and kayakers.
If not now, at some date in the future the Town of Clarence will realize that it should own, for permanent public access, some frontage on Tonawanda Creek.
FRANK PARLATO JR.
County Legislators Balk at Selling 400-Acre Parcel of 'Banked' Land to Clarence for Town-Only Park
MARGARET HAMMERSLEY News Staff Reporter
November 06, 1996, Wednesday, CITY EDITION
Clarence officials want to buy county land for a town park, but some Democratic county lawmakers objected to the idea Tuesday.
The county's 400-acre tract in Clarence is known as Beeman Creek and was land-banked, along with scenic land in three other parts of the county, for development in the next century.
The county acquired it for $ 90,000 in 1966, and the town wants to buy it for $ 90,000 now and develop a town park for town residents alone.
"I consider attitudes like that to be bordering on bigotry," said Majority Leader Albert DeBenedetti, D-Buffalo. "I take great offense at the notion that we are going to sanction the development of a park that is going to exclude people."
Legislator Gregory Olma, D-Buffalo, said barring all but Clarence residents from the park is "totally unacceptable."
Legislature Chairman Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore, said the county has to consider the "bigger picture."
"If this land is prime land and can be used for many purposes, our first preference would be to have this available to Erie County residents," he said.
Clarence Supervisor Paul McCarthy said exclusive use of the Beeman Creek site for Clarence is, indeed, what residents want.
McCarthy said Clarence would not refuse to go ahead if the county insists that the park must admit all county residents.
It is clear that the county cannot sell the land to private developers but not clear yet that it could go to a municipality, McCarthy said.
Thirty years ago, the Legislature banked major tracts of land with outstanding natural features for future park development. Besides Beeman, the land bank includes the Boston County Forest Reserve in Boston; Hunter's Creek Park in Wales; and Franklin Gulf Park in Eden-North Collins.
None of the 2,728 land-banked acres is now open, Parks Commissioner James Jankowiak said.
"It's there for future generations, no doubt," he said. "But we (Erie County) didn't grow, and we're not growing."
Legislator Michael Ranzenhofer, R-East Amherst, said Clarence residents are concerned about increased traffic if Beeman Creek becomes a county park and are exploring what they would have to pay the county to limit use of the land to "passive" recreation, such as nature and snowmobile trails, skiing and hiking.
"There will be a public forum after the first of the year," said
Naturalist-developer Frank Parlato Jr. said the value of 400 acres in fast growing Clarence is probably $ 1.3 million, but he added that Beeman Creek is too precious to sell.
"There will be very few 400-acre parcels available in the future, where we can go out and enjoy the countryside," he said.
Parlato invites people interested in forming a public watchdog panel to get in touch with him.
Earlier this year, Parlato offered to sell Clarence 23 acres along
Tonawanda Creek for $ 50,000. Town officials, without rejecting his offer, turned to Beeman Creek.
Erie County Shouldn't Let Clarence Hog Beeman Park For Just Its Own Residents
By Frank Parlato Jr.
Special to the News
January 17, 1997
Scenic, wealthy, historic, predominantly Republican, with open spaces and six beautiful town parks -- wants to buy another park, the proposed Beeman Creek Park site, from its owner, Erie County.
If the deal goes through, Clarence officials plan to create a 400-acre nature park open exclusively to Clarence residents.
In other words, under this variant of apartheid, Buffalo residents,
Cheektowaga residents, Amherst residents, West Seneca residents -- basically everyone else in Erie County -- would be barred from using a park we now own.
Currently, two plans have been discussed.
In the option they prefer, Clarence officials would buy the park site for $ 90,000 and instate the residents-only policy in effect at the town's other parks.
The other option, preferred by some Erie County officials, would have the county donate the land to Clarence with the provision that it be open to all.
Presently, the Beeman Creek site isn't open to anyone. It's been posted by Erie County since 1966, the year it was first acquired by the county and land-banked as a future park.
County officials planned that Beeman Creek Park would open as a county park by 2002 to serve what they thought would be an expanding population.
Composed of rolling meadow, upland forest, creekside and old-growth hickory, it's ideal for hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. It's understandable that Clarence wants this site. It would give the town a nearly complete, diversified park system.
What I can't understand is why Clarence officials want to restrict usage of this park.
Imagine what life would be like if Buffalo restricted its parks and
cultural resources. It's hard to imagine Clarence residents being arrested for attending Shakespeare in Delaware Park; yet Buffalo residents face arrest today if they set foot, for example, in Clarence Hollow Park.
Given the choice, Clarence officials would rather buy the land from the county for $ 90,000 and make a restricted park than take the land for a dollar and make it public.
The reality is, however, that the land would still be a steal at $ 90,000.
Yes, that's what the county paid for it, but real-estate values in Clarence have changed over the last 30 years. As a real-estate professional, I would estimate the value of the land minimally at $ 1.3 million. A developer could, in fact, add a sewer system and create a cluster development worth $ 40 million or better.
Fortunately, there is a better choice. Erie County could open this park.
The county could easily develop a system of hiking trails and maintain the park for a nominal sum.
As a developer, or under-developer, I have had experience in preserving forest habitat and creating wildlife sanctuaries. I've preserved land in the Rush Creek Basin, in Lakeview, along Ransom and Tonawanda creeks in Clarence, and along 18 Mile Creek Gorge, including Buttermilk Falls, in Hamburg.
None of these passive-recreation developments was costly. In fact, nearby development projects associated with some of these conservation sites were actually profitable.
Increased property values might pay for maintaining Beeman Creek park.
My interest in Clarence's parks stems, however, from more than my
indignation as a county resident. In 1992, I offered to sell a park I
designed to the Town of Clarence.
My proposal had the Town of Clarence paying $ 50,000 for the 25-acre Canoe Point site, which included almost 3,000 feet of waterfront on the Tonawanda Creek. No one disputes that the $ 50,000 price tag is less than half of the market value for the site -- and that I could easily sell the high, dry waterfront site for residential development.
I told Clarence officials that the highest and best use for the land is a passive recreation/waterfront park and that I wanted to encourage the creation of parks of this type in every community.
At the time, Clarence balked at buying this site. The park, which would provide the only public access to the Tonawanda Creek canoe trail in Clarence, would draw people from outside of the town, officials thought.
In 1996, when I repeated the offer, they said they preferred developing the more centrally located Beeman Creek site.
A park is a place where all humankind should be welcome. Clarence is rejecting an opportunity to share its abundance of natural beauty.
But Erie County has an opportunity also. We have an easy, painless way to open to the public 400 acres of beautiful, upland forest and open countryside in Northern Clarence.
FRANK PARLATO JR. is a Buffalo-area real-estate developer and community activist.
Parks Users Raise Question Over Consolidation Plan
By MARGARET HAMMERSLEY
News Staff Reporter
April 11, 1997
Residents who use Buffalo and Erie County parks -- runners, golfers, bikers, walkers, ball players -- raised two questions this week about a proposal that the county take over some city parks:
Can the county absorb 800-plus acres of city parks without lowering the maintenance standards for the county's 11,000 acres of parkland?
If the county can improve city parks and not lessen care for its own, should it?
Everyone seems to love the city's and county's parks, but not everyone is quick to endorse a county takeover, according to interviews with officials and users.
Suburban athletes who make heavy use of the city baseball diamonds, golf courses and tracks would like to see them in better condition.
James Gibson, an Orchard Park physical education teacher and baseball coach, speculated that more suburban than city ball players are on Delaware Park and Cazenovia Park fields in amateur leagues during the summer.
He said it is hard to find diamonds in top playing shape in the city, but diamonds in the county's Chestnut Ridge Park are not so good either.
"The diamonds in Chestnut Ridge are not being repaired in any way shape or form," he said.
Richard Stedman of Orchard Park, who operates a nursery, keeps a professional eye on the trees while he enjoys his winter walks in Chestnut Ridge. "I notice there are a lot of trees in the park that need attention, and they are not getting it. I don't see any preventive maintenance," he said.
He wonders about the wisdom of the City of Buffalo's transferring its major attractions.
"If they keep giving away things piecemeal, there isn't going to be
anything left to rebuild," he said. "As I see it, the city has no master
plan. The city has a plan that lasts until the next election.
"As the city goes, the Niagara Frontier goes. People are more interested in the next election than the long-term benefits to the city."
Hamburg Developer Frank Parlato is a citizen activist with a particular interest in parks. "I'm supportive of anything that will serve the public better," he said.
But he said the county has extensive and beautiful parkland that it has not opened sufficiently. He recalled a recent proposal, stopped before it could go to fruition, to give Beeman Creek Park to the Town of Clarence and to turn over green space at Sturgeon Point to private developers. "We haven't done enough to open up the splendid vistas of Beeman Creek Park, Hunters Creek Park and Sturgeon Point," he said.
In recent summers, police arrested dozens of men loitering in Ellicott Creek Park to have sex with other men. Police stepped up patrols, and the county put money into a children's playground and other facilities.
Ann Dinan and her husband Fran, a Canisius College professor, walk in Ellicott Creek Park in the Town of Tonawanda and picnic there with their grandchildren.
"It's somewhat nicer than it used to be," said Mrs. Dinan. "There was a period when I don't know if funding was short or what."
Mrs. Dinan, a nurse, said many suburban residents, including her family, also enjoy walking around Hoyt Lake and seeing Shakespeare in Delaware Park. She likes the improvements at Delaware Park Casino and personally does not object to the county playing a role in supporting the city parks.
"A lot of people outside the city do use the city facilities," she said. "I see no reason why the county shouldn't support them."
Mayoral aide Stephen T. Banko III said county takeover of city parks was a hot question this week at a fund-raiser for Mayor Masiello.
"A hundred people must have said to me, 'Don't give the county the Olmsted Parks,' " he said. "And most of them were suburban residents."
A county employee, who uses county and city parks, noted that the county is constantly downsizing and has eliminated hundreds of jobs in the last eight
years. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the worker said the county would need a lot more manpower if it takes title to city parks.
"Parks are the dumping ground of political appointees," the employee said.
"Whether you have city or county, they can hire anybody. I think the city would be crazy to give over the Olmsted system."