Thoreau and the Parkway Issue
Niagara Falls business interests, because of a misguided sense of
municipal propriety, refrain from taking a position on the Niagara
Heritage Partnership proposal for parkway removal and gorge rim
restoration beyond the city line. They
feel their neighbors to the north might be offended.
northern neighbors, Mayor Soluri of Lewiston Village and an assortment
of town governments and supervisors, for example, do not feel similar
neighborly constraints. Traffic
flow, what Soluri claims to be so important to Lewiston, via the
parkway, isn’t necessary for Main Street, Niagara Falls.
Main Street, he announces, has to “blossom first” and then
“people will return.” All
over America urban planners concerned with inner city decay must be
slapping their foreheads. It’s
so simple! Blossom first! Why
hadn’t they thought of that?
significant business investments follow heavy traffic patterns or the
potential for increased traffic is a well-known part of economic
revitalization. This is one
of the benefits of the NHP proposal.
There’s not much “blossoming” on US Route 66 these days.
recent newspaper commentary by Soluri trots out the same tired and
faulty arguments he published in the Niagara Gazette on 12 August 2001,
most of it word for word, in favor of parkway retention.
He makes no genuine effort to respond to the economic and
environmental benefits of the NHP proposal.
His idea of “compromise” is anything that keeps the parkway
as a commuter route. He
claims heavy support
for keeping the parkway; that it’s a “major lifeline” for
Lewiston, Youngstown and other towns 30 miles east; that there’s
nothing more “glorifying” when traveling than to drive by “a pond,
a lake, a river, the sea,” and so on.
heavy support claimed by Soluri was gathered under suspect
were circulated in business places of Lewiston amidst a long newspaper
assault of misinformation that reported or implied the NHP advocated
parkway removal from the north Grand Island Bridge to Youngstown, New
York, a distance of over 20 miles.
Whether this misinformation was intentionally spread or was
merely reflecting ignorance is open to debate.
In spite of NHP protesting and repeating that our proposal
concerned only about five miles along the gorge rim, the damage had been
done. Several months ago,
for example, when I met with Mr. Dean, Wilson Town Supervisor, to ask
him why he opposed the proposal, he said that Wilson residents used the
parkway frequently. That
was how they got to Lewiston, he informed me, right down Lake Road to
Youngstown and then down the parkway.
He appeared surprised to learn NHP had never said a word about
that section of the parkway.
the petition “generated” by the Greater Lewiston Business and
Professional Association either seemed designed to permit signers to
think whatever they wanted, including that they were objecting to the
two-lane “pilot program” closure, or was just poorly conceived of as
a legitimate measure of public opinion.
It said, “We the undersigned oppose the closing of the Robert
contrast, the petition being circulated by NHP at that time said in a
large capital letter heading, “Robert Moses Parkway Removal,” and
beneath that “We, the undersigned, support the Niagara Heritage
Partnership proposal to remove all four lanes of the Robert Moses
parkway between Niagara Falls, New York and Lewiston, New York, and to
have the area restored with forest and long-grass wildflower meadows and
with hiking and bicycling trails.”
Below that was our website, “www.niagaraheritage.org.”
People knew exactly what they were signing.
There is a petition online now, as well, where signers can leave
claim that the gorge rim parkway is a “major lifeline,”: essential
to northern business communities is unsubstantiated.
The parkway is about a six-mile stretch of road at the extreme
southwestern edge of the county. A certain number of patrons, let’s say for Lewiston
restaurants, for example, live within a mile or two of parkway entrances
which encourages them to drive north to Lewiston along the gorge rim. Much further away than that seriously reduces the probability
that a driver would head toward a parkway entrance to reach Lewiston..
Would those living within a few blocks of Hyde Park use the gorge
parkway to reach Lewiston? How about those in the Town of Niagara, LaSalle, Wheatfield,
Porter, Cambria, Pendleton, Wilson, Lockport, and so on?
the tiny percentage of county residents living near gorge parkway
entrances, how many of these would refuse to go to a Lewiston restaurant
if the parkway were removed? It
appears to us people dine at a restaurant because they enjoy the
ambiance, the menu, reasonable prices, the other patrons, and for other
such reasons. It’s almost
impossible to imagine someone with a favorite Lewiston restaurant
refusing to go there because an alternate road took six minutes longer
and there were three stoplights en route.
undeniable that hotel staff and others find it easy to direct tourists
to Lewiston and to Fort Niagara with a wave of the hand and “Just get
on the parkway.” Drivers
of tour coaches and busses use the parkway as an easy route, too, even
though commercial parkway traffic is supposed to be prohibited.
They are exceptions. To
suggest, however, that tours would no longer go to Fort Niagara without
the parkway, is not realistic. Tour
drivers would quickly select alternate routes.
When visitors by the bus load are willing to pay to go to Fort
Niagara or the Lady of Fatima Shrine, drivers take them to these
destinations. Gorge vehicle
access points would still be available to those interested, as we’ve
stated elsewhere. Individual
tourists with vehicles should be provided with “tourist maps,” with
clearly marked routes that note points of interest throughout the
county, not only in Lewiston and Porter.
am not sure how the state of being glorified might be achieved.
If I had to say, I’d guess it had to do with a religious or
spiritual experience, or an act of courage.
No guts, no glory. But I am sure it has nothing to do with driving near a pond
or other body of water. Thoreau
didn’t drive by Walden and millions of Americans and others around the
world will continue to be profoundly grateful that he did not. From what we know about him, the mere thought of it, even if
an automobile had been available, would have been horrifying to him, not
glorifying. Frederick Law
Olmsted, a contemporary of Thoreau, whom we have every reason to believe
was familiar with Thoreau’s writing, took pains to ensure that the
automobile of his day, the horse-drawn sightseeing carriage, was
excluded or kept back from scenic river-edge landscapes at the Niagara
Reservation where their presence would intrude.
is the Olmsted vision we’d like to see extended along the gorge rim,
even if we are in the process of losing it nearer the falls.
While compromise is the time-honored political reaction to
settling differences of opinion, in this case the word rings hollow.
Those who pretend consideration of the Niagara Heritage
Partnership proposal and then suggest “compromise” as if they are
speaking with the voice of wisdom are instead revealing a willful
believe it may be useful for those on opposing sides of this issue to
participate in a series of discussions where the concerns of both sides
could be addressed, where various points of view could be thoroughly
examined, where evidence for assertions could be offered and documented,
and where common goals might be established.
We appeal to some third party or combination of community
institutions to consider sponsoring such a forum.