The Village of Wilson has broken ground on a $1.6 million project to raise the Townline Pier to meet higher Lake Ontario water levels seen over the past few years. It's one of several infrastructure improvements coming to the shoreline.
Increased water levels hurt shoreline economies and tourism in 2017 and 2019. In response, New York State created the Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) in the spring of 2019. The initiative brought local municipal leaders together to discuss where money can best be spent to protect and sustain properties close to Lake Ontario.
Wilson Mayor Arthur Lawson said there’s a benefit to working with neighboring communities.
“When you get that many community leaders meeting in a room so consistently, that's created the additional opportunities such as the bike trails," Lawson said. "And we were just kind of trying to work together softly to protect our businesses when the high water came, because the biggest thing was, we get high water, we wanted to get out in front of the press and make sure that everybody knew our businesses were open.”
The elevated pier is expected to be complete by this October.
“First off, it is going to be raised from 246 to about 252, which is huge, because in 2019, the water got to right around 249.5 and 250.5 so we're going to relay and scale that down," Lawson said. "They're redoing the stairway, they're going to redo this parking lot. We're going to landscape, but we're putting in a full-time handicap accessible restroom. And then we're also bringing the electricity down in here too.”
The REDI Commission has additional projects planned, with $20 million allocated for homeowner assistance, $30 million toward business resilience, and $15 million toward a regional dredging effort that impacts eight counties close to Lake Ontario.
Lawson said since the commission formed in 2019, communication between neighboring towns has improved.
“2017 we were caught by surprise. And we thought we were prepared and we dug in and 2019 just pushed us aside like we didn't do any preparation. 2017 and 2019 our communication was great. I would say it's increased exponentially every month, we talk with each other regularly and now meet with each other regularly,” Lawson said.
And that communication is leading to larger public projects.
“We even got together and moved our group from Lake Ontario Preparedness to the Northern Niagara Trail Consortium in which all these community leaders were working to develop this bike trail from Lewiston, hopefully down through Barker, down into Lockport and into the Empire State Trail," Lawson said. "Hopefully, maybe you can get on your bike here and take it to Manhattan in the future.”
Greg Stevens with the Niagara River Greenway Commission was present for Mondays ground breaking. He said funding for recreational infrastructure can go a long way.
“We're working with Wilson-Tuscarora State Park, and trying to identify all the amenities up here that we could then connect with a trail system, both in the village. So the idea that the village is working on is to have a loop in the village that ties all the businesses together and then to come up here and connect to a second regional trail, the first one being the Empire State Trail across the Erie Canal.”
Both Stevens and Lawson hope work on a bike trail will be completed sometime next year.