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LEWISTON – The trails and drainage ditches at Bond Lake Park are getting some attention these days in a project that benefits the county and also provides training to local soldiers.

About 20 to 25 soldiers of the New York Army National Guard Combat Engineers’ 152nd Engineer Support Company have been working with Niagara County for the past week in the county-owned park. Ordinarily the soldiers are called upon to respond to national and overseas emergencies, building bases, runways and roads.

The 531-acre park is crisscrossed by numerous hiking trails, which have drainage ditches running parallel to keep the trails dry. But over the years the ditches have become overgrown and filled in.

The mission of the 152nd is to clear and drain 2,350 feet of damaged ditches. The county will provide pipe and other materials.

First Lt. Kyle Sander, the executive officer on site, said they are providing the manpower and heavy equipment.

“From the looks of it, it’s been a long time since anything has been done. Some of the areas are losing trees,” Sander said. He said the county just didn’t have the necessary equipment and that’s why the Guard was called in, using backhoes, dump trucks, graders and dozers to do the work.

“For our guys, this is training,” Sander said.

The dirt removed from the ditches will be used to regrade the trails and roads in the park. The company will also do clearing work to make the trails more passable.

County Public Works Commissioner Kevin P. O’Brien said a project like this would have cost the county thousands of dollars.

“We’re really happy to have them. It’s a real plus for us,” he said.

He said without the proper drainage, the trails get so wet that the public is unable to use them.

“This makes the park more useful for the public,” O’Brien said.

He said plans to work with the New York Army National Guard were initiated about two years ago by Niagara University’s ROTC, which uses the park for maneuvers and saw the need for the upgrade.

He said county engineers came up with the plans and then handed them over to the New York Army National Guard Engineers.

“It’s a great program. We’ve been working for several years to get this done, but we didn’t have the manpower and equipment. We can pick away at it, but we weren’t able to get it done,” O’Brien said.

“We’re real pleased about it,” he said.

The soldiers are expected to come back to work on the project in mid-July and again in September.

Capt. Eric Butcher, the company commander, said the training is especially relevant for his soldiers and the project will be useful both in overseas deployment or in response to a state emergency.

National Guard units conduct Innovative Readiness Training in communities when the work employs the same skill they use in their military duties and when the work benefits local government and is not being done by a private business.

The 152nd is headquartered in the Connecticut Street Armory in Buffalo and is an element of the 204th Engineer Battalion in Binghamton.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com