Albert E. Caccese
State Plaza, Agency Bldg 1
New York 12238
response to the letter I wrote to Commissioner Castro on 12 December
2001 was less than satisfactory. The
letter I wrote on behalf of the Niagara Heritage Partnership objected to
State Parks considering running people movers along the Niagara gorge
rim from downtown Niagara Falls to Devil’s Hole State Park.
You wrote back in defense of that consideration, indicating that
the contemplated route would extend along the gorge top even beyond
Devil’s Hole and on to Fort Niagara at the mouth of the Niagara River.
You made only a slight attempt to respond to the substance of our
am continuing this correspondence to make certain that our position is
very clear and to respond to remarks you made in your reply.
Perhaps some of the points we tried to make in the letter to
Commissioner Castro were obscure, made only by implication.
we noted in our initial letter that we weren’t buying into the
“environmentally friendly” trolley terminology, there’s no
need to keep promoting it to us.
The acquisition of less polluting fuel systems for Niagara
people movers is an improvement, and State Parks deserves credit.
That does not justify their being used along the gorge rim,
the word “Trail” into the pilot program’s title doesn’t make
it any more palatable. We
stand behind the objections we made in our letter to Mr. Lyons,
cosigned by over 200 individuals, on 28 March 2001, and we are still
waiting for State Parks to provide us with a rationale for the
pilot. How does its design propose to provide meaningful
information that will lead to a conclusion about how to treat the
gorge rim? We were told
that Parks had “nothing in writing” when the pilot was
announced. Does Parks
still have nothing in writing?
Was nearly a million dollars spent on two-lane reduction
roadwork with no justification in writing?
say that these gorge rim people movers would provide a “terrific
opportunity to acquaint visitors…with the other natural wonders
available just a few miles down the Niagara River gorge.”
Of the seven opportunities you list, however, from Niagara
Falls to Youngstown, only two qualify as natural wonders—and one
of those requires stretching the imagination to the breaking point.
from those seven sites is Devil’s Hole State Park, which is
understandable, since its gorge rim is so severely degraded by the
parkway lanes that it has either escaped your attention or was
deemed unworthy of notice. NHP
has advocated its restoration.
idea of adding to the “economic revival of Niagara Falls”
evidently involves a lengthy stopover trip to Fort Niagara on people
movers that might encourage visitors to retain accommodations for an
extra night and eat an extra meal.
Where, between the Falls and Youngstown, this meal might be
purchased is open to speculation.
The city of Niagara Falls will still be essentially detoured.
NHP plan involves people movers on city streets. It’s not original with NHP; the idea has been put forward
for years, by a former Parks’ Director, by a current park’s
commissioner, and others. This
would create the need for creative problem solving, but it is a better
plan if the “economic revival” of Niagara Falls is at issue.
NHP proposal retains the traditional tourist base and creates the
potential for an entirely new and huge population of ecotourists. With the current gorge rim trolley idea, Parks caters
only to the traditional, excluding the others.
Does Parks dismiss the possibility that Niagara could benefit
from the tremendous amount of ecotourism dollars spent annually, a
result of restoring its natural historic landscapes?
National Park Service places a very high priority on the
preservation of natural heritage.
While the study to qualify the Niagara region as a National
Heritage Area enters its initial stages, State Parks puts under
“consideration” a plan that will detract from the possibility of
reclaiming a significant part of our natural heritage, a move toward
commercializing the gorge rim, the very area NHP seeks to restore.
organizations, local, state, national, and international, with a
combined membership of nearly one million, plus thousands of
individuals from across the country and, in some instances around
the world, have signed paper and electronic petitions in support of
the proposal calling for gorge parkway removal and the restoration
of natural landscapes. They
did not endorse “trolleys” and commuters running over the
parkway that continues to despoil the gorge rim.
State Parks so dismissive of this grassroots endorsement that it has not
made a genuine effort to evaluate the proposal?
Is it inconceivable to Parks that worthwhile ideas might arise
from somewhere other than the upper levels of government?
appears that the Commissioner’s Office, with the approval of the
Governor, sets Parks’ agendas in motion and once this occurs,
those agendas are impervious to differing public opinion.
If this is so, it does not speak well of either the
Commissioner or the Governor. You
may or may not have a personal role in helping to establish these
directions, but at least in this instance have been put in the
position of defending policies that are an affront to common sense
and are contrary to the Olmsted principles Parks claims to endorse,
while continuing to keep the details of Parks’ rationale behind
closed doors. This
condition doesn’t lead to a useful exchange of ideas.
We talk past one another.
State Parks have a “master plan,” a 10-year plan, for example,
that outlines the general philosophy and specific directions for
parks operation, especially the Niagara Reservation?
Where may we obtain a copy?
is no question that Olmsted would have deplored the idea of commuter
routes and people movers transversing concrete lanes along the gorge
rim. If it weren’t
for the political infighting and conflicting interests in 1883, the
gorge and its near rim would have been part of the Niagara
Reservation as Olmsted and his supporters envisioned.
They took what they could get, the present Reservation at the
Falls, a compromise.
letters held by The Library of Congress and other sources reveal that he
convinced Canadian Parks officials to construct a road much closer to
the Falls than the hundred yard setback they’d planned—so that horse
drawn carriages, the people movers of his day, would flock to Canada for
the better view, leaving the US side free of these distractions.
For those carriages that did ply the lanes of the Niagara
Reservation, he provided guidelines to restrict their intruding upon the
119 years later, we have the opportunity to mitigate that unfortunate
compromise made so long ago, which born of past necessity as it may have
been, has denied the organic wholeness of Niagara for generations.
Parks insists on its “trolley” notion and finds it impossible to
understand that is moving away from the potential of a more natural
Niagara toward what Olmsted called the “Coney Island Big Elephant
Affair,” then there is little left for us to discuss.
we ask Parks to consider dropping that portion of its Niagara region
plan that calls for “trolleys” along the gorge rim and, further, to
give serious consideration to the proposal for parkway removal and
natural restoration, a direction that would honor Olmsted’s original
concept of the Niagara Reservation.
Along with other members of the coalition, we look forward to
meeting with you to discuss the details of this opportunity, if you feel
that such discussions would be useful.
Paul A. Dyster
Charles E. Schumer