Original Article posted by Watertown Daily Times |  By Brian Hayden

MASSENA — The New York Power Authority’s board of trustees on Tuesday awarded nearly $10.5 million to improve Robert Moses State Park.

About $10 million will be spent refurbishing the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project’s Barnhart Island Bridge, while $431,000 will be used to complete design and engineering work for a new park nature center. The previous center burned in 2010.

NYPA awarded the nature center contract to Stieglitz Snyder Architecture, Buffalo, and the bridge project to Atlas Painting and Sheeting Corp., Amherst. Those companies submitted the lowest-price qualified bids, according to NYPA spokesman Michael Saltzman.

“The Power Authority regularly undertakes important, worthwhile projects in Northern New York,” NYPA Trustee Eugene L. Nicandri said in a statement. “The new nature center planned for Robert Moses State Park and the Barnhart Island Bridge refurbishing are perfect examples of our approach to the upkeep and responsible operation of the facilities at the St. Lawrence-FDR project and of our being a good neighbor in contributing to important community endeavors.”

Nature Center Director Mary A. Danboise said she was pleased to hear of the board’s decision.

Initial design work will begin this fall and the new center, which will feature interactive exhibits and classroom space, will be built by 2015, NYPA officials said. Another bid for the center’s construction is forthcoming.

Ms. Danboise and a co-worker revived much of the nature center programming last year, but have been operating out of a trailer. The animals once housed in the center are split between the park trailer and the homes of Friends of the Nature Center members.

“We knew it was coming at some point. Sometimes, you have to wait a while for the good things,” Ms. Danboise said. “That will be very exciting to see what they have to offer.”

NYPA stepped in to fund much of the nature center’s operations after the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation cut funding in 2010. Building a new center is the next step, Ms. Danboise said.

“We’re ready to move forward with that part of the project,” she said.

The Barnhart Island Bridge work will include painting; abrasive blasting; disposal of lead paint, and drainage system improvements. Work on the substructure will begin in 2013, with the entire restoration scheduled for completion in 2014.

The authority decided it was time for a comprehensive rehabilitation of the 56-year-old bridge, which is more than 1,000 feet long, NYPA spokesman Paul DeMichele said. The bridge was last rehabilitated in 1997 and has received only patchwork repairs since then. Rust was visible on the span Tuesday afternoon.

“A decision was made to go all out and get it done rather than keep doing it gradually,” Mr. DeMichele said.

Massena Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said he is pleased NYPA is undertaking bridge maintenance, but is especially appreciative of the agency’s commitment to the nature center. He said that project is outside the bounds of the 2003 relicensing agreement, which requires NYPA to provide benefits to the communities surrounding the power project.

“It’s obviously good news,” Mr. Gray said. “When money is spent on construction projects, there’s a benefit to the local economy.”