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Governor George E. Pataki
Executive Chambers
New York State Capitol
Albany NY 12224

Dear Governor Pataki,

Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act of New York State, I obtained a copy of a letter written to you by Town of Wilson Supervisor Jerry L. Dean requesting construction of a golf course within the confines of Wilson Tuscarora State Park. On behalf of the numerous hikers, birders, hunters and outdoor recreation lists of Wilson and Niagara County who utilize this State Park, I wish to express to you and Commissioner Castro my strongest objections to this ill-conceived proposal. I will draw on excerpts from Mr. Dean’s letter, highlighted in bold, to illustrate my points.

“As you know, in the early 1960’s New York State created Wilson Tuscarora State Park on property taken from residents of the Town of Wilson, which removed over $1,000,000 in assessed valuation from our tax rolls”.

With this statement, Mr. Dean is taking the position of the conservative “takings” movement, which demands compensation for actions taken for the public good. In this case, there are two possible outcomes. Either a golf course is built on State Park land, from which there will still be no increase in assessed valuation for the Town of Wilson, or New York State would cede and turn over State Park land to a Town for administration of a golf course, which would be totally without precedent.

“The land sat vacant and undeveloped for many years until the beach was recently opened and a new bathhouse constructed.”

The beach has been open for at least 10 years, which is as long as I have been a Wilson resident. Construction of the new bathhouse was not coincident with opening of the beach, as implied here. The terminology “vacant and undeveloped” is used disapprovingly. Mr. Dean, as a professional landscaper, would be expected to use such terminology. However, in a region more and more characterized by urban sprawl, many folks are drawn to areas “vacant and undeveloped” for forms of recreation which enjoy and celebrate natural surroundings.

“Town officials are being inundated with requests for the return of a golf course at this location. As the popularity of golf has exploded in the past years, waiting lines have grown for tee times...In the Wilson Tuscarora State Park Master Plan completed in 1993, golf facilities were included in several
of the alternative plans (see attached). Since interest in including golf in the plan was confirmed, and since golf is one of the fastest growing recreational activities, it makes sense to move forward with this recommendation.”

I would, at this point, wish to quote verbatim from Section 6.1 of the Recreational Analysis Summary of the Wilson Tuscarora State Park Master Plan, completed in 1993, which contains relevant portions of the Master Plan that Mr. Dean omitted in his letter to you, as follows:

“The recreational demand analysis does not recommend development of an 18-hole golf course at the Wilson Tuscarora Park. The study found a relatively moderate level of demand for additional golf facilities in the project area. Therefore, the need for a major golf course at this park at this time does not appear to be a priority based on the recreational demand analysis.”

Elsewhere in the Wilson Tuscarora State Park Master Plan: “Other indicators of demand suggest that additional golf facilities are not a priority among Western New Yorkers. According to the 1987 State survey of recreational demand, approximately 6% of respondents from Western New York expressed desire for additional golf facilities, compared to 8% statewide.  This ranked golfing tied for seventh place with camping and cross country skiing...(the) need for a golf course at this site... does not appear to be a priority, and other recreational needs should take precedence”

The southern portion of Wilson Tuscarora State Park, the site for the proposed golf course, borders 12 Mile Creek, a tributary of Lake Ontario.  When one considers the impact of the tons of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides necessary to maintain a golf course, which would wash directly into the creek, and subsequently, the lake, the damage to fish and other wildlife becomes evident. To quote further from the Master Plan:

“A more complete list of birds observed in the Wilson Tuscarora State as follows:

Black-Capped Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, Cedar Waxwing, American Robin, House Sparrow, Red-tailed Hawk, Rufous Sided Towhee, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Flicker, Hairy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, Great Blue Heron, Canada Goose, Common Grackle, Belted Kingfisher, Lesser Scaup, Mallard, Purple Martin, Red-Winged Blackbird, Spotted Sandpiper, American Woodcock and ring-necked pheasant... The existing stands of old growth forest along the west branch of Twelvemile Creek in the south portion of the park (the proposed site) important habitat area.”

In fact, a local forestry expert, Bruce Kershner, has determined that parts of the forest, which would have to be destroyed to construct a golf course, show definite characteristics of a rare “old growth” forest. 

“Trees along the trail contain impressive stands of mature hardwood trees.  Trees along the trail include beeches, oaks, maples, cedars, hickory, sumac, birch and American Hornbeam. During the spring, the understory of the woodland is carpeted with red and white trillium, blue cohosh, trout lily, jack-in-the-pulpit, beechdrops, early meadow rue and spring beauty.”

The master plan further describes mammalian species which inhabit the Park, including game species such as deer, rabbit and squirrel, and well as the rich biodiversity of the neighboring estuary of 12 Mile Creek, which shelters game fish such as salmon, trout and smelt.

When construction of a golf course in Joseph Davis State Park was an issue a short time ago, Commissioner Castro herself publicly stated that there would be no golf courses constructed in our State Parks. Dozens of environmental and sporting groups vociferously opposed that project. That same coalition will be mobilized in the event of a push to build a golf course in Wilson Tuscarora.

On behalf of the 2100+ Sierra Club members of Western New York, many of which live in the vicinity of the Wilson Tuscarora State Park, and the citizens of Wilson who do not yet know of this proposed golf course, I ask you, Governor Pataki, in the strongest terms, to prevent the destruction of this Park land, which would reduce the number enjoying it from the many to the few.

I can think of no better way to end this letter to you than to quote one last portion of the Wilson Tuscarora State Park Master Plan, which describes the area to be occupied by the proposed golf course, as follows: 

“The primary features of this section of the park are the bluffs and areas of natural woodland along the west branch of 12 mile creek. This area is a significant natural and scenic resource.”

Thank you for the prompt response of your OPRHP staff to my FOI request, and for the consideration you have shown over the years for the preservation of the outdoor beauty of New York State.


James Hufnagel
Executive Committee
Niagara Group of the Sierra Club

CC:  Commissioner Bernadette Castro
        District Director Edward J. Rutkowski
        District Manager Gerry Mikol
        Assemblymember Francine DelMonte
        State Senator George B. Maziarz
        Supervisor Jerry L. Dean
        Councilmember Nancy Simmons
        Councilmember Brad L. Clark
        Councilmember Donald W. Luff Jr.
        Councilmember Bruce Muck



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Niagara Heritage Partnership

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Niagara Falls, New York 14302-1723