Don't just drive by Niagara's beauty
11 June 1999
This is in response to the May 30 letter to the
editor by Judi Kozminske "Parkway showcases beauty of Niagara."
Yes, Ms. Kozminske, the Robert Moses Parkway does showcase the
beauty of Niagara. Any road that slices through a magical, scenic area like the falls,
rapids and gorge, would, of course, offer a splendid view. But isn't there more to
experiencing the beauty of nature than merely looking at it from the window of your car?
If our only concern is to provide a pleasant drive-by
experience for motorists seeking to avoid the city of Niagara Falls, then the parkway
serves us well. Some of us, however, would like to see more. How about a world-class
attraction where visitors and locals can experience nature close up? How about encouraging
traffic flow back into downtown Niagara Falls and sparking new development? How about
getting rid of the Robert Moses Parkway?
Removing the parkway, in particular, the section from the
Rainbow Bridge to Lewiston, would give us 6.5 miles of virtually continuous parkland with
breathtakingly beautiful hiking and biking trails. We would have a magnificent, family
oriented attraction that, for many visitors, would offer a lasting impression of Niagara's
true scenic splendor.
In her letter, Ms. Kozminske boasts, "I have no memory of
the past to cloud my vision of what this city could be like now." 1, too, have no
memory of Niagara prior to the Robert Moses Parkway. It was built before I started
kindergarten. Unlike her, however, I have lived here all my life and I have heard the
stories of people who do remember. I know what was sacrificed for the sake of a pleasant
drive-by experience. For the city of Niagara Falls and on into Lewiston, the Robert Moses
Parkway is a barrier and an eyesore. It is a decaying, fenced-in no-man's land that denies
access to natural vistas we all should be able to enjoy. Except for the small plot of land
that comprises Whirlpool Park and the ridiculously miniscule Devil's Hole Park, there is
nowhere to walk or ride your bike safely. In fact, there is only one practical access
point for cyclists and that is the pedestrian overpass at Devil's Hole.
Residents of the DeVeaux neighborhood have some of the most
awesome natural scenery in the Northeast right in their back yards. Yet in order to get to
it, they have to drive, their car. A few daring individuals (many of whom are youngsters),
have Improvised short cuts through the chain-link fence, across the four-lane parkway and
over the guardrail. Fortunately, heavy traffic is not something you have to worry-about on
Whether intended or not, the Robert Moses Parkway has always
served as a detour around the City of Niagara Falls. Arguably, this small convenience
afforded to residents of Lewiston and Youngstown has, in the long run, contributed to the
decimation of the Main Street business district. Today the area is, as Ms. Kozminske
correctly points out, one of "boarded-up windows and blight" As a relative
newcomer to these parts, she wouldn't know of a time, not very long ago, when Main Street
was a thriving commercial district, full of activity and life.
Ms. Kozminske seems to prefer that we write off the area and
"let the tourists see the city's best side." Removing, the parkway, she
contends, would "force tourists and locals alike" to have to drive down Main
Street. We wouldn't want that now, or would we? Main Street is one of the last remaining
areas of the city that still retains any of the original architectural charm of Niagara
Falls in its heyday. Sure, it's in pretty bad shape right now, but with wise planning and
a bit of investment, it could be brought back to life as a colorful "old town "
business district with visitor-oriented retail and specialty shops as well as stores and
services for local residents. It could thrive once again.
Consider, also, if instead of the Robert Moses Parkway, we had
open access to the gorge from the Schoellkopf Geological Museum in Niagara Falls, all the
way to Artpark in Lewiston. Imagine hiking and bicycling through reclaimed parklands that
have been restored with native trees, grasses and wildflowers.
Imagine visitors from around the world spending not a mere
three hours in Niagara but a whole day, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, the
educational attractions, the unforgettable scenery and history.
Rather than spend another cent to repave, refurbish and
maintain this decrepit road-way, we should petition the state to tear it up and restore it
to parkland. The eventual cost of totally rebuilding the parkway has been estimated at
nearly $100 million. Removal would cost only about $2 million. The elimination of
maintenance costs alone would pay for the work in less than 10 years.
Other areas of the country have already realized the potential
of environmentally-minded "ecotourism" attractions. Cleveland, for example, has
been very successful developing and marketing hiking trails at its nature center. Our
Niagara scenery outclasses it a hundred-fold.
Robert Borgatti of Lewiston is a member of the Niagara
Heritage Partnership, a group of concerned citizens who advocate the preservation and
restoration of the region's natural environment and encourage socially responsible