Lamont's Speech at the DeVeaux Beautification Committee Meeting
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
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.