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Muddy Como Park Lake being returned to its original beauty

Erie County

Como Lake Park is a jewel of Erie County, with thousands of Cheektowaga and Lancaster residents living close by and walking, biking or driving to its facilities. Erie County is starting to resolve a large slug of mud in the middle of the park's lake.

Erie County Legislator Ted Morton has been pushing on this issue for years. The stars now seem aligned to get a complicated problem resolved, with repair work starting this fall on the gates that hold water in the lake.

Until the gates are repaired - and those repairs are going to cost a quarter of a million dollars - the lake cannot be drained for mud to be tested to see how it will be hauled away and disposed of. That may sound simple, but County Executive Mark Poloncarz said it is not.

"Bid out for a contractor to come in and repair our dam," he said. "Once we repair the dam, we can open up the gate valves and eventually allow the water to flood through, which will then - not this year, but hopefully next year - allow us to dredge the lake. We cannot dredge it until we've actually done ground testing, sediment testing and we can't do sediment testing until we're let the water flow through. So it's a process that's going to take a couple of years."

Poloncarz said the gates on the dam have been a problem for years because they do not work.

"Part of it by Mother Nature, other part by vandalism," Poloncarz said. "As a result, we can't release water from behind the dam and, as a result, silt is building up and silt has been building up near the area where there's a natural island because that's what nature wants to do - is continue to build the island - and it's caused not just to aesthetically look poor. There's nothing actually wrong with the park. It just aesthetically doesn't look great."

Morton said the repair work on the lake will not cost as much as it might because he used the county's Shared Services Panel to work out a deal with the Village and Town of Lancaster and the Village of Depew to use their workers and equipment to do the actual mud removal. He said that might save $600,000.

"The nice thing is is that in this era in the last several years of inter-governmental workings, working together to save taxpayer money," Morton said. "The two villages - Village of Depew and Lancaster - and the Town of Lancaster have basically all agreed to work with the county so that the village and the town use their labor and equipment to do the dredging, once the lake is drained."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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