Niagara Parklands; don't exploit their wilderness
Gazette, 8 April 2001
Niagara Heritage Partnership believes that recent plans for Niagara are
seriously flawed, both the State’s “pilot project” for the Niagara
gorgetop parkway, together with a study group’s consolidation of previous
waterfront plans and its recommendations. Neither
are guided by a far-reaching vision of a Niagara Reservation and extended park
system that emphasizes its essential characteristic, the natural environment,
its preservation and potential restoration.
lack of vision is especially disappointing because such a guiding philosophy has
been readily available for over a century; the Olmsted-Vaux Plan was, in fact,
used to reclaim the Niagara Reservation from inappropriate commercial
exploitation in the late 1800s. New
York State Parks Commissioner Castro, moreover, has recognized the value of the
Olmsted approach and has in recent months often repeated the state’s intention
to more diligently implement its guidelines.
Unfortunately, both the state’s pilot project creators and the study
group seem cheerfully oblivious to this intention and incapable of imagining the
consequences of their proposals. It
is understandable that some politicians and others are beginning to look toward
federal levels of government to learn what part they might take in the
preservation and reclamation of our parkland.
be fair, the pilot project may be a timid first step toward parkway removal, in
which case we would be pleased with this initial piece of progress.
Likewise, the study group’s recommendations are in a large part
praiseworthy—they do pay some attention to Olmsted, such as suggesting the
creation of a “Frederick Law Olmsted Interpretive Center,” relocating the
State Parks maintenance facility away from gorgetop, and the restoration of the
Upper Grove at Prospect Point. But
inadvertently, or by design, the pilot and study group’s proposals also come
together to facilitate commercial exploitation of the gorge.
The Niagara Heritage Partnership has elaborated on our concerns about the
pilot project in a letter to Mr. Thomas B. Lyons, the State Parks Director of
Environmental Management. This
letter, with its over 200 cosigners, can be read at www.niagaraheritage.org.
what was mentioned in the letter, we believe that cumulative affects of
proposals need to be discussed before action is taken.
Constructing elevators into the gorge at Whirlpool State Park, for
example, as recommended by the planning group, would certainly increase access,
but too much. Combined with
elevators at Prospect Point, with a capacity of 2,400 people per hour, some of
whom would be descending to gorge trails, this could easily result in five or
ten thousand people a day clambering over gorge trails.
Soon there would be a clamor for “improved trails,” and soon after
that the gorge would resemble a Coney Island boardwalk, and the very thing we
sought to promote, a wilderness experience of stone, water and foliage with its
aura of solitude and magic, will have been destroyed, a victim of its own
have called the Niagara Gorge “The Grand Canyon of the East,” but it is
important for us to remember that ours is a fragile slice of wilderness that
must be protected, only about 5 miles long, not 277 miles, and we need to be
very careful about the kinds of development we encourage or we risk losing it