Niagara Heritage Partnership is a group of concerned citizens who
advocate the preservation and restoration of the region’s natural
environment and who encourage socially responsible development.
Since 1997, we have taken positions on a variety of issues,
though our focus has been on parkway removal and the natural restoration
of the Niagara gorge rim between Niagara Falls, New York, and Lewiston,
New York, with hiking and bicycling trails.
We believe this would have great environmental and economic
benefits to our region. Details on this and other issues can be found at www.niagaraheritage.org.
we view the Niagara gorge as a natural treasure, we were recently
prompted to take a position regarding the lower river jet boat when we,
as stakeholders, were invited by the Power Authority to take a ride on
it, ostensibly for information gathering purposes.
We emailed a half dozen other stakeholders to inform them that
the Partnership would not be taking the jet boat ride.
We said that many thought the jet boats were damaging to the
environment: there were questions about erosion, the disturbance of
shore nesting birds, noise and visual intrusions into the natural
scenery of State Parks, disruption of smaller craft and of the lower
river fishery. We asked if
an Environmental Impact Study had been done regarding the jet boats, and
said that water drawn off above the Falls for power generation had
probably made the jet boat ride possible in the first place, through
greatly tamed rapids at Devil’s Hole State Park.
We did not urge other groups to boycott the ride.
the morning of the boat ride, stakeholder James Hufnagel and friends
unfurled a long white banner bearing the words “Jet Boats Suck!” at
the river’s edge. According
to Hufnagel, this caused the loudspeaker of the boat to fall momentarily
silent while the occupants gaped.
newspaper coverage either stated or suggested the Niagara Heritage
Partnership had initiated and participated in the banner event, but this
is not so. The idea was
generated and executed by Hufnagel, but we certainly agree with the
sentiments expressed by the banner.
Jet boats do suck, and the banner provided a three-word summary
of the concerns we’ve expressed here.
Not everyone embraces the idea of jet boats roaring up the gorge
past several State Parks while blaring over loudspeakers.
Kinney, jet boat president, called the protesters a “vocal minority”
and said they were “entitled to their opinions.”
This standard reminder of rights guaranteed to Americans is as
unnecessary as it is patronizing. The
right to an opinion and the right to express it is a given, not a fact
to be recited as a legitimate response to criticism.
Kinney calls riding in the jet boat “a participatory
experience” and justifies the ride and loudspeakers in part because
they “explain the whitewaters.”
What amusement park ride isn’t participatory?
And how many sentences does a whitewater explanation take, two?
further stated that he was “unaware” of complaints about noise in
the gorge, but that the jet boats don’t use the “loud hailers”
near homes in the Youngstown-Niagara-on-the-Lake area.
The consideration of this vocal minority’s wishes is very
thoughtful, but what about residents at other locations along the river?
Partnership believes the jet boat rides will continue.
They are too much of a moneymaker to stop. When making money is at odds with the natural environment, it
is often the environment that suffers.
The villages and townships that so proudly include the jet boat
rides in their television commercials also welcome the existence and
expansion of huge landfills within their boundaries because of economic
gain. No town courts a
landfill for altruistic reasons or because of its beauty.
A century from now the defining geographic feature of these towns
will not be the beautiful river on whose shores they are located, but
the enormous, lumpish landfills that rise high above the trees,
unnatural swellings on the lake plains that will require monitoring in
jet boats are merely a symptom of a mindset that values money first and
may not even have a second consideration.
Town officials seem cheerfully oblivious to the fact that this
town-based business has a negative impact beyond town boundaries.
Similarly, it is nearly inconceivable that the company officials,
after years of operation, have never had a thought that their jet boat
and loudspeaker noise might be disturbing to gorge wildlife and to
people who go there to enjoy a natural environment.
But if that is the case, now that it’s been brought to their
attention, perhaps they will consider a sound system for the boats
involving earphones for riders, which would at least eliminate the
offensive sound of the “loud hailers” echoing off gorge walls.
It’s the most we can hope for.