ROBERT MOSES PARKWAY
REMOVAL AND PARK RESTORATION
In support of the "Niagara: The
Park" concept, of preserving and extending the natural landscape vital to the
aesthetic appreciation of our region, we urge the removal of four lanes of the Robert
Moses Parkway along the top of the gorge from the Schoellkopf Museum to Lewiston and the
restoration of parkland and native flora that once grew there.
While the first thought might be that a part
of this roadbed would be a cost-effective route for people-movers traveling points of
interest among the gorge, the philosophy of highway as central design feature has been
rejected by university urban planners for the last thirty years. Retaining the
parkway would be a halfway measure, a concession to what's easiest and quickest, not
what's best for the region long term.
The aesthetic appreciation of the landscape
would not be marred by the sights and sounds of automobiles and people-moving vehicles
inappropriate to the setting.
Forested areas and grasslands with native
wildflowers would be restored, extending the natural environment.
The idea of "spaces for people"
advocated at the October 16th Best Western community meeting could be served by leaving
part of one lane, furthest from the river, in place for bicycling, and linking up another
path, lengths of which are already in place, for hiking.
The band of restored parkland would add about
300 acres to the wildlife habitat along the Niagara River that has been recently
designated as an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society in recognition of the region's
significance to migrating birds.
A continuous area of trees would extend from
the depths of the gorge to the DeVeaux woods, an old growth forest within the city limits.
Whirlpool Park and the disappointingly small
gorgetop area of Devil's Hole Park would be significantly enlarged, perhaps doubled.
A gorgetop without people-movers would
eliminate the need for the "selective trimming" and "selective
clearing" of trees called for by the Niagara Waterfront Master Plan.
Such a restoration project would attract
positive national and international attention in the ecotourism market, the fastest
growing segment of the tourism industry.
Alternative routes for people-movers could
function as a stimulus for revitalizing business--along Main Street, for example.
In addition to the planned route from the airport to downtown Niagara Falls and
into Canada, other city routes should be considered or established: Buffalo Avenue, Hyde
Park Boulevard and Pine Avenue.
The idea of Main Street as a broad pedestrian
walkway lined with shops, sidewalk cafes, restaurants, and other businesses is not a new
one. Over twenty-five years ago, the beginning phases of the Main Street
Development Plan resulted in the off-street parking that presently exits--space for over a
thousand vehicles. With everyday vehicular traffic routed to streets immediately
behind Main Street and only people-movers traveling the center of this bricked
thoroughfare, it is easy to imagine visitors and residents stopping to eat, to have a cup
of coffee, shopping in boutiques, visiting the Historical section of the Earl Brydges
Library, taking note of architectural assets, the Armory, the Carnegie Building, looking
over the collection of Niagara Falls books offered by The Book Corner.
Existing gorgetop destinations would be
easily accessed: the Schoellkopf Museum, Aquarium, Devil's Hole, and Power Vista are
presently accessible by walkover; people-mover drop-off points for these sites are already
(or are readily made) available; drop-off for Whirlpool Park is within a short walk from
Main Street, Whirlpool Street or Devil's Hole.
Robert Moses Parkway removal and parkland
restoration is most obviously problematic at one site, the Power Vista, but even here, the
"Niagara: The Park" theme can be sustained with carefully chosen plantings, ivy
against concrete, and so on. Some of this has already been done in this location.
The realization of the ideas mentioned here
are complicated by the necessity of cooperation among various entities, such as New York
State, Department of Transportation, the State Parks Department, the City of Niagara
Falls, and the Power Authority. We also recognize that the restoration of parkland
and forest at gorgetop would be an expensive, long-term project. But ten-year plans
have failed us repeatedly in the past, and we should, this time, take the long view
regarding the most important of our assets. We believe that such as project would be
worth the money and the effort in the long run if "Niagara: The Park" is to be a
genuine and realized vision.