Piecemeal parkway removal not justified
Niagara Gazette, 26 April 2000
The Niagara Heritage Partnership believes that attempting to remove the Robert
Moses Parkway along the gorge a section at a time has serious disadvantages involving
costs, publicity value, and the reduced probability of completing the whole job.
The cost of removing it in sections would skyrocket the estimate of $300,000
per mile. Start-up expenses, the most costly part of the process, would be as high for a
mile or two as for the entire length. These expenses would be reassessed for each portion.
Large projects in which both private and public organizations and agencies
cooperate for common goals, whose vision embraces the economic, environmental, cultural,
recreative, and historic, have an enhanced potential for capturing high levels of private,
state, and federal funding. Smaller, or fragmented, proposals simply do not have that
potential. They would require repeated appeals to the same funding sources, with much less
justification for funding.
Removing the entire parkway at one time would be a huge, media-attracting
project that would captivate naturalists and others worldwide. News coverage would be more
likely to be steady- -a regular reporting of the process. There is a high probability that
the Discovery Channel or other national film media outlets would cover the reclamation.
Independent documentary film makers would be drawn here. Organizations and individuals
would undoubtedly be eager to participate by donating trees and wildflower and grass seed.
To remove it in pieces would simply be a series of deconstruction jobs, a local newspaper
article or two each time, the annoyance of noise and dust.
It also seems highly unlikely that a phased removal would result in a park
restoration based on Olmsted's principles. When the whole vision is broken into pieces,
there will be less support for anything other than mowed-grass parkland. It is doubtful
this will do anything significant to attract ecotourists. The temptation to remedy this
with "attractions" destructive of the natural environment would be extreme.
If the Quay Street portion of the parkway is removed first, and then two lanes
of the next section to Findlay Drive, there is no reason to believe there will be any
motivation to remove additional parkway. The political capital of Niagara Falls city
officials will have been stretched thin; having accomplished some removal and satisfied
"green" constituents, they could. declare victory.
Removing the already-closed Quay Street section (previously advocated by
Niagara Falls Redevelopment and for which commercial development is planned) and the first
mile or so north from Howard Johnson's is the easy part, relatively speaking. It avoids
opposition from DeVeaux residents concerned about increased Lewiston Road traffic and
defuses potential critics from Lewiston and other points below the ridge whose residents
want their freeway to the Falls retained.
If the project stalls at Findlay, the Niagara Heritage Partnership's vision
won't be realized. Here are some aspects of that vision: Removing the four lanes of the
parkway that divides Whirlpool State Park from the DeVeaux forest would permit the forest
to extend itself toward Whirlpool. The mature trees on the median there, spared by parkway
construction 40 years ago, would become part of the forest again. The spreading forest
would be contained by the edge of the Whirlpool mowed-grass park. Inside the park,
visitors who are sightseeing and picnicking would enjoy the experience of being in a
forest clearing, bounded on one side by the Niagara Gorge. Devil's Hole State Park, the
site where 50 to 60 soldiers were massacred by the Senecas, is dishonored by parkway
lanes, reduced to a pathetic sliver of mowed grass and a parking lot.
The current Master Plan proposes further disrespect: enlarging the parking lot
and constructing a turn-around, presumably for people movers. In contrast, the Niagara
Heritage Partnership believes this ground should be enlarged by parkway removal, restored,
and treated as a memorial to those who died in this early American labor dispute.
A section-by-section approach to parkway removal that involves different
segments of the community for each section is contrary to the spirit of regional
cooperation we should be encouraging. The lower Niagara is a single, organic entity and
should be thought of and treated as such. We all would benefit variously from the
restoration of the natural landscape along the top of the gorge, and we should all work
together to accomplish this goal.