Casinos, Creating Jobs
Regrettably, the sorrowful events of September 11
have created yet another reason for the complete removal of the Moses
parkway between Niagara Falls and Lewiston, New York.
The elimination of vehicular traffic over the face of the power
plant would increase security, significantly reducing the risk of
explosives being transported by vehicle to ground zero of this
generating facility. We
know all too well the terrible devastation that can be produced by an
explosive-packed truck or van. The
Niagara Heritage Partnership does not rejoice in advancing this
argument. We wish that the
reason for mentioning it had never occurred, but it has, and we mention
it rather than remain silent.
This most recent tragedy has also negatively
impacted travel worldwide, seriously compromising the tourism industry.
It may be that the Niagara region can no longer rely on a
bountiful influx of international or airborne visitors.
The International Labor Organization estimates that related U.S.
job cuts could be “as high as 3.8 million.”
Empire State Development has similar concerns.
No one can say how long this condition will last, or when, if
ever, air travel will return to pre-crisis levels.
Now more than ever a concentration on the domestic
marketing of Niagara to the millions interested in heritage and
ecotourism should be viewed as a new opportunity for maintaining or
strengthening our tourism base. Since
the Partnership has long presented this focus as the primary rationale
for our gorge rim restoration proposal, we were pleased to hear this
view echoed at the “Rethinking Niagara” symposium on 24 October.
At this meeting, leaders from business, government, and the
tourism industry had the opportunity to consider the benefits of
heritage tourism, especially as it pertained to the market including
Buffalo and Canada. Our
proposal, with specific details and suggestions, concentrates on the
U.S. side of the Niagara River gorge and the revitalization of a more
depressed urban environment—and those interested in this information
can find it at www.niagaraheritage.org,
especially at “Comments made to Business Associations of Niagara
Falls, 31 May 2000.”
This increased interest in heritage tourism is
being linked by some as a local response to offset nationally difficult
times as money gets assigned elsewhere to protect us in a
terrorist-altered economy. Even
more clearly, state officials are citing the September 11 attack as the
rationale for swift action on obtaining casino gambling for Niagara.
Casinos are viewed as a new revenue source for the state, which
Governor Pataki has estimated will lose $9 billion over the next 18
months as a result of the attack.
While the Partnership believes that the gorge
restoration project should be pursued with or without casinos, and
recognizes pre-casino construction barriers yet exist, as do disputes
over revenue sharing, casinos may indeed provide a source of economic
benefit to the region: their construction and operation will provide
jobs; a percent of the money generated will be paid to host communities.
If a casino does become a reality for Niagara, many assume that
an enhanced investment climate will be created.
This climate should intensify the possibility of Moses parkway
removal, natural gorge rim restoration, and the completion of associated
projects necessary to realize the proposal’s full potential.
Generally, first stage work would be as follows:
˝ miles of 4 lane concrete and curb removal
dismantling and removal of the Whirlpool overpass
of exits and entranceways at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge
of exit and entrance roadways at Route 104 in Lewiston
construction and/or completion of hiking and bicycling trails along
the entire 6 1/2 mile length
beginning of natural landscape restoration along the gorge rim
Additionally, the Partnership strongly advocates
the following to realize the full potential of gorge rim restoration:
elimination of the State Parks Maintenance Building from the edge of
the gorge and its reconstruction in a more suitable location
construction of an elevated steel walkway at Whirlpool Bridge (below
the upper deck) to eliminate the necessity of crosswalks
intersecting bridge traffic
construction of a sufficient number of access walkways, handicapped
and wheelchair negotiable, from Whirlpool Street to gorge rim trails
between Cedar and Ontario Avenues
construction of similar walkways between the DeVeaux area and gorge
construction of similar walkways and/or ramps from the Fort Gray
area to gorge rim trails
redesign and reconstruction of presently existing handicapped and
wheelchair access points at Schoellkopf and other gorge rim
locations so that these are acceptable to those who actually use
the feasibility of constructing an exterior elevator on the Wrobel
Towers building which would carry residents and visitors to a
rooftop gorge observation deck
construction of “deckwork” to bridge the Power Authority lower
gorge access road, restoring that portion of Devil’s Hole State
Park lost to the road and reconnecting that portion of the gorgetop
park presently isolated by the road’s cut-through
of a rest/picnic area under the shelter of the Lewiston-Queenston
construction of a “wintergarden,” a greenhouse of insulated
glass over the parkway lanes across the power plant.
Private sector partnerships of local florists, nurseries, and
horticultural students could keep this portion of the trail green
and blooming during the summer season, or beyond, with heat
generated by solar installations or from other sources.
This might also be a good place for a refreshment/snack bar.
Elevators at this location should provide visitors and
resident access to this segment of the trail.
The improved security, job creation, strengthened
tourism market via a heritage focus, and other business opportunities
provided by gorge rim restoration can be accomplished with funding from
a variety of sources. The
$150 million in the Environmental Protection Fund, though currently
threatened by the possibility of being tapped for general state use, is
one such potential source; the $10 million matching funds from the
National Park Service has promise; the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional
Transportation Council has
$10 million set aside to help with such a proposal; private sector
investment would apply in some instances; State Parks funding could be
used for the completion of some aspects; other funds might be obtained
from the USA Development Corp; perhaps
a fraction of the host community casino share could be applied to
Niagara Falls gorge sections—Senator Maziarz has spoken of the need
for such funds to be targeted for economic development: neighborhood
revitalization, job creation, and tourism, major components of the
Niagara Heritage Partnership proposal.
In any case, if the people of the Niagara Frontier
work together as an extended community, this most remarkable
achievement, this nearly self-sustaining restoration of the natural
environment can be our enduring gift to future generations.