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Restore beauty of gorge top

Niagara Gazette, 31 May 2000


For 12,000 years, this river has run, an immense artery of the greatest system of freshwater lakes in the world, rushing headlong over nearly 200 feet of escarpment, biting through 400 million years of stone to expose bedrock unlike any on Earth--dizzying rapids, a massive falls and seven miles of spectacular gorge where the river runs too deep and turbulent to be sounded by our most modern equipment.


Sound familiar? This is our very own Niagara River, but it is only half the story. For, as those of us who live here know well, we have shown our appreciation for it in odd ways, dumping tons of PCBs, dioxins and other industrial goodies into its waters; diverting more than half its volume to power neon beer signs in New York City bars; maintaining its surrounding land in a pristine combination of pavement, lawn and Eurasian plants; and creating a strip of highway along its gorge that rivals wooden fruit in both beauty and usefulness. Amid this fog of absurdity we are seeing a few shining lights of hope for the restoration of the Niagara River area, and the brightest is the proposed removal of the infamous Robert Moses Parkway.


As the Niagara Heritage Partnership has proposed, the parkway should be removed from Niagara Falls north to Lewiston. This would allow the gorge top to be restored to an attractive natural state, with native trees, shrubs and flowers, as well as interpretive signs and trails for visitors. Tourists would be provided with a rich and unforgettable experience and native wildlife, including birds, would be provided with invaluable habitat. What an immense improvement this would be over the noise, stink and visual intrusion of the present Robert Moses!


The parkway serves no purpose that cannot be served by parallel roads, and it cuts the city of Niagara Falls off from its greatest attraction, the Niagara River. It is an expensive road to maintain and, by routing visitors away from the city, it detracts from the local economy. I have never heard a good reason to leave in the parkway. Apathy and fear of change are not valid excuses.

I must disagree completely with David Hojnacki's suggestion in an April 11 "guest view" to change the speed of the Parkway from 55 mph to 30 mph. This measure would do absolutely nothing to alleviate any of the problems cited by those of us in favor of removing the parkway; nor would it beautify the landscape in any way, nor improve its value to wildlife. The only effect of a change in speed limit would be to transform a fast, stinking, ugly, expensive parkway into a slow, stinking, ugly, expensive parkway. As a person who hikes this gorge every week and often leads group hikes here, I believe we have an obligation to both the people and the river to do better than that.


While attending the February meeting of the Niagara Waterfront Revitalization Task Force as a representative of the Sierra Club Niagara Group, I was deeply impressed by the enthusiastic groundswell of public support for the removal of the parkway and restoration of the gorge top. In fact, I was inspired to write a resolution supporting the Niagara Heritage Partnership's parkway removal/gorge restoration plan for the Sierra Club, which we passed unanimously. Thus, I find it very disappointing that the task force is even considering this speed limit change in place of the Niagara Heritage Partnership's proposal. This strikes me not as a compromise, but as a glorified cop-out, an excuse for no action.


The Niagara River gorge is too beautiful and too unique a place to waste. It takes wisdom, foresight and a great deal of hard work to preserve and cherish such places. We have the opportunity before us to prove that we can do it.


You can sign an online petition to remove the parkway at


Robbyn Drake, is a student in the Environmental Studies program at the University of Buffalo and a lifelong resident of Niagara region, as well as a Sierra Club Niagara Group executive committee member.


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