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Niagara Gazette Guest View, September 2000

Two instances of myopic thinking surfaced in the Niagara Gazette on the 16th of September, one in a letter to the editor by George Marinucci, and one in the Niagara Notebook.

Marinucci’s letter praised Lewiston Councilman John Ceretto for his insular idea of a bike path from Lewiston to Devil’s Hole, a plan that ignores the larger proposal for parkway removal from Niagara Falls to Lewiston put forth by the Niagara Heritage Partnership, which includes the creation of both hiking and bicycling paths.  He also criticized an earlier letter by Paul Lamont of Lockport (which indicted Ceretto for his lack of vision) and asked why a Lockport resident was “worrying about Lewiston.”

Lamont, however, was not commenting on a local issue such as the suitability of a car wash in the Village of Lewiston.  Niagara Falls and its lower river gorge are world treasures over 10,000 years old and in that sense belong to all of us, in spite of town lines.  Regardless of where they live, people not only have the right, but the responsibility to express opinions when they believe an idea is shortsighted, self-serving, or fails to recognize a vision for the entire region.  Lamont, as a coproducer of “Fading in the Mist,” a film documentary about the history of the falls and river, shown nationally on PBS, might have a special authority, insight, and knowledge to share.

In the second instance of myopic thinking, the Niagara Notebook item “Great blunders in local geography” stated that members of the Wheatfield town board were amused when Supervisor Timothy Demler read a resolution from Great Lakes United, “an environmental group.”  The resolution asked the town to support the removal of the parkway and the natural restoration of the gorgetop.  They were amused, according to the Notebook, because “The Robert Moses comes nowhere close to…Wheatfield.”  According to Demler, this is not why they were amused.  Moreover, if the reporter imagined that was the reason for amusement, perhaps it is he who needs the lesson in geography, not Great Lakes United.  This organization is considerably more than “an environmental group” to which the article refers; it is a binational coalition of over 150 environmental groups, labor unions, tribes, municipalities, sports organizations, and others.  Collectively, they are dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes--St. Lawrence River ecosystem.

They realize it is legitimate to be concerned about heavy metal discharges into Lake Superior, even for people who don’t live on its shores, because of the potential for harmful trace elements to flow from drinking faucets elsewhere, in Niagara County, for example, even in Wheatfield.  They realize that PCB and dioxin releases into the Niagara River negatively impact aquatic life, threaten human health, and eventually go through the St. Lawrence to the ocean.  When they’re asked to speak against this, they do so.  They don’t find the request amusing because they live “nowhere near” the ocean.  Similarly, when Great Lakes United advocates the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway and the restoration of a natural landscape, they know this has the potential to create positive effects for the whole of the Niagara Frontier and beyond. 

Generally, it is well documented that upscale, high technology businesses choose locations based on employee satisfaction, and that a major element of that satisfaction has to do with the proximity of greenspace.  The restoration of gorgetop land would be a giant step in providing the greenspace.  New businesses begin to create a highly trained, technically educated employee base, which makes the region attractive to additional businesses.  More specifically, Niagara Falls Boulevard runs from Wheatfield into Pine Avenue and might be more extensively developed as a business corridor, and as a major thoroughfare with the potential for increased tourism traffic as a result of an expanded ecotourism market.   Less noticeable benefits might include, for example, the 300 additional acres of life-sustaining wildlife habitat at gorgetop resulting in increased numbers of songbirds along the Kimberly Woodruff Memorial Nature Trail in Wheatfield.

The great sweeping forces of nature do not acknowledge national or town boundaries.  Sand from the deserts in North Africa, carried by the trade winds, drop on the shores of Lake Ontario.  The winds blow and particulates from industrial smokestacks in the Midwest fall as acid rain in the Adirondacks.  The seasons ease one into the other, rains fall, rivers flow, and birds migrate oblivious to the line on the map dividing the tan of Wheatfield from the pink of Lewiston.  Our actions in one place impact those in other places. 

Thus, it seems fitting that Lamont be concerned about what happens in Lewiston, and that the Town of Wheatfield consider supporting a proposal that doesn’t actually touch the boundaries of the town.  Others who are interested in the details of the parkway removal and restoration proposal are invited to check or Niagara Gorge Parkway Removal and Restoration in local libraries.

Bob Baxter, Ransomville, New York

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