Let's Get the Record Straight
By Robert Borgatti
From time to time some erroneous claims have been put forth that misstate or exaggerate the Niagara Heritage Partnership's proposal to reclaim a portion of the Robert Moses Parkway with hiking and biking trails. I would like to address these errors one by one.
Error #1: The NHP wants the entire parkway removed
Despite what some would have you believe, the NHP never has advocated closing the parkway all the way to Youngstown. The only section we would like to see removed is the 6.5 miles between Niagara Falls and Lewiston. This segment, which runs entirely along the gorge, is an egregious insult to the natural landscape and a needless duplication of other roads. Two four-lane thoroughfares--Whirlpool Street and Lewiston Road--run alongside most of the parkway, in some places just inches away.
If marketed properly and tied into various community festivals and events, an improved gorge-top park would bring countless visitors to Niagara Falls and Lewiston through all four seasons. Hiking, biking, carriage rides, cross-country skiing, sleigh rides, bird watching, fall foliage tours--millions of people already do these things in less scenic areas; why wouldn't they do them here?
Error #2: Access to the gorge will be reduced
Opponents of parkway removal often claim the NHP plan is inconsiderate of the elderly and physically handicapped. This criticism is completely unwarranted. Those who use this argument either are woefully ignorant of the NHP plan or deliberately intent on distorting it.
The NHP plan offers greatly improved access to the gorge. We support keeping all existing vehicular access points including those at the Schoelkopf Geological Museum, Whirlpool State Park, Devil's Hole, and the lower river access road. Additionally, we'd like to see new pedestrian entry points created all along the route. We also support elevators to the trails at both Schoelkopf and the Power Vista. Whether you come by car, on foot, on a bike, or in a wheelchair, you should be able to enjoy the park, its scenic overlooks, and trails.
Error #3: The Parkway is Lewiston's "lifeline"
The parkway is not Lewiston's lifeline nor has it ever been. It's just one road that leads there, the others being Lewiston Road, Military Road, and the I-190. If you consider major feeder roads, add Hyde Park Boulevard and Highland Avenue to the list. To suggest that businesses in Lewiston and Youngstown would suffer because visitors would be unable to get there without the parkway is ludicrous. This argument is simply a smokescreen to shroud the real concern of a few vocal critics, namely that their private high-speed driveway will be taken away. If a few extra minutes added to your drive time bothers you or your delicate sensibilities are somehow offended by actually having to drive through the streets of Niagara Falls rather than around them, maybe the parkway is important to you. If so, maybe it's time to re-assess your priorities.
Error #4: Closing two lanes is an acceptable "compromise."
The NHP does not support two-lane closure of the parkway nor do we support the state's ill-conceived pilot project. As we've already seen, converting to two lanes satisfies no one and solves nothing.
People who want to keep the Robert Moses as their personal Indy Speedway around the Falls aren't thrilled with the reduced speed limit, two-way traffic, and competing for the right of way with pedestrians and bicyclists. Now there's even talk of running "people movers" along the route. Is it any wonder that great masses of hikers and bikers haven't flocked to use this "trail?" No matter what you call it, it's still just a closed road. It's like putting a couple picnic tables in a parking lot and calling it a park. Are we to conclude that parks are a bad idea because no one wants to have a picnic there?
The only sensible solution is to remove all four lanes. This would give us a genuine park-like setting that our stunning gorge landscape deserves--a place where people would want to come for a peaceful retreat into nature.
A community draws its identity and inspiration from its most notable landmarks. It's no surprise we're in such pathetic shape when we have come to see ourselves as the land of toxic waste dumps, abandoned factories, and failed developments. If that's all you see, then that's what you begin to think you are. But that isn't all we are. We have the magnificent falls, river, and gorge. We should embrace them and tout them proudly to the world. They are awesome treasures that make us a unique and special place, yet, for more than 40 years we have been cut off from them by four lanes of concrete called the Robert Moses Parkway. It's time to re-connect with our better nature.