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History of Amherst State Park News Archives


Buffalo News,   July 25, 1998,  EDITORIAL PAGE

      You know the old rule: If anything can go wrong, it probably will. It's a rule that dogs nearly everybody, but especially governments. That is why it's so pleasant to observe an Amherst program, laden with constructive consequences for town residents, that is evolving smoothly.

       The other night the Town Board, with a unanimous and bipartisan vote, agreed to borrow $2.5 million -- matching a contribution from state environmental bond money -- to acquire the park-like property owned by the Sisters of St. Francis. Located at the edge of the Village of Williamsville, this park includes a four-story motherhouse on Mill Street.

       The opportunity to purchase such suitable open space in a built-up neighborhood, roughly 100 acres, comes along once in a lifetime. Were the Town Board to muff it, that opportunity could vanish forever.

       Happily, this rare chance has not been lost. On the contrary, town officials, with the cooperation of the state government and, particularly, leaders in the gracious religious order, have moved thoughtfully step by step.

       The overall thrust has been not only to find ways to purchase the property as it becomes available, but to preserve its natural gifts of open space, wooded patches and nicely tended landscapes for the benefit of town residents.

       The responsibility is not, to be sure, fully discharged yet. Purchase details are being negotiated. Reasonably, the Town Board would prefer not to develop the motherhouse, built early in this century, itself. Rather, it wants to sell or lease the motherhouse to a recipient that would avoid excess takings of green space, respect the historic mission of the structure and not seriously violate its character or splendid exterior design. Proceeds from the sale, or lease, of the motherhouse could help the town repay the $2.5 million it is borrowing for the project.

       To achieve all of that may prove a tall order. But no one should quarrel with the idea that this responsible intent is worth the effort.

       One reason for the smooth evolution of the whole project, as it moves from vision to reality, is the subordination of partisan differences between Republicans and Democrats, a characteristic not always so evident. On this project, there is agreement to move ahead. Another reason is the generous measure of cooperation among the parties.

       "The state," says Supervisor Susan Grelick, "has been very good to work with." That's essential, too. The state, with its $2.5 million contribution, will own 61 acres of this park.

       If things can go wrong, they still may. With continued cooperative effort, and a bit more good luck, though, this project could become the valuable exception that proves the rule.

       MARK MULVILLE/Buffalo News

     Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis, 400 Mill St., Amherst, which the town is acquiring as part of program to develop a lovely 100-acre park.

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