SAVE NIAGARA FALLS!  REMOVE THE ROBERT MOSES PARKWAY!

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Paul Lamont's Speech at the DeVeaux Beautification Committee Meeting

 March 2000

Six years ago, my partner and I began research on a documentary film about the ongoing struggle for scenic preservation at the Niagara Reservation. What piqued our interest in the subject was the public outcry that had developed over the height of the new toll plaza that was being proposed for the Rainbow bridge. Opponents argued that if it was to be built at the suggested height, it was just "one more man-made intrusion on the natural landscape of Niagara." Prior to working on the film, I didnít have a full appreciation of all that Niagara had to offer. But during the course of making that documentary, I came to appreciate all the gifts of this area--unparalleled views, breathtaking scenery, sublime beauty. I also learned a lot during the course of production. I learned that people who care can and do make a difference. I learned about things like the Free Niagara Movement, spearheaded by Frederick Law Olmsted and others, that ultimately led to the establishment of the Niagara Reservation. But to Olmsted the lower river gorge, which was part of his original vision for the Reservation, was just as magnificent as the falls themselves.

 

Today the gorge is still magnificent. However, it is scarred by the intrusion of the Robert Moses Parkway. Like any road that cuts through a scenic vista, it offers some splendid views. But isnít it sometimes better to experience those views on a deeper and more personal level rather than from the window of a car? Isnít it sometimes better to experience nature in its natural state?

The Niagara Heritage Partnership envisions a "natural" experience here at Niagara. We advocate the entire removal of all four lanes of the Robert Moses Parkway, in particular, the 6.5 mile stretch from Rainbow Bridge to Lewiston. Removing this section along the rim of the gorge would provide virtually unbroken parkland that could be restored with native trees, grasses and wildflowers, creating a world-class family-oriented attraction that would offer a lasting impression of the true scenic splendor here at Niagara.

 

For some of you here in DeVeaux, the Robert Moses Parkway represents a barrier that deprives you of access to that scenic splendor. You have some of the northeastís most spectacular views at your doorstep, but to enjoy them, you have to drive to them. But there is something else at stake other than just better views and thatís the economy of the region.

 

We believe that removing the parkway and replacing it with hiking and biking trails, native grass and wildflowers, will be a catalyst for economic growth enabling the area to capitalize on the ever-growing ecotourism trade. The Audobon Society has designated the Niagara River Corridor as an Important Bird Area, significant to migrating birds and birders are a large portion of the ecotourism industry.

 

Imagine visitors coming from around the world and spending more than a few hours here. Imagine them spending a day or two as they experience what Niagara truly has to offer--learning from educational attractions and experiencing our unparalleled scenery and rich history as they explore the gorge, the neighboring parklands and just as importantly, the communities within the Niagara region.

 

And how about the city of Niagara Falls itself? Weíre not suggesting that removing the parkway will magically sprout new life overnight in the downtown area. The city of Niagara Falls exists as it does now because of a myriad of complex problems that occurred over the past thirty years. The Robert Moses Parkway as a quick route around and ultimately out of the city was just one of the contributing problems. But by recognizing it as one of the problems, we can position ourselves to do something about it. Isnít it time that we start thinking in terms of what nature has provided for us and to let nature be the draw, let nature be the seed for economic growth?

Over a hundred years ago, Frederick Law Olmsted and others sat around a table at the Cataract House in Niagara Falls discussing what could be done to free Niagara from the blight that was destroying it. The legacy they left for future generations is the Niagara Reservation.

 

Like Olmsted and his colleagues, we too come together at a common table to exchange ideas, discuss concerns, forge alliances, and attempt to bring into sharper focus, the choices that could effect generations. We have been given the unique opportunity to begin the process of establishing our own legacy for future generations and the Niagara Heritage Partnership can see no legacy more enduring than the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway and the reclamation and preservation of the Niagara Gorge.

 

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Niagara Heritage Partnership

MPO Box 1495

Niagara Falls, New York 14302-1723

 

niagaraheritage@aol.com