Niagara Gazette

Editorials

May 7, 2008

EDITORIAL: Niagara's field of dreams

The problem with solving the problem of brownfields in Niagara Falls is one of out of sight, out of mind.

The land which qualifies as a brownfield looks pretty much like any other vacant land. It’s usually located in what was once an industrial area. The difference between it and your standard-variety land is what’s in it or beneath it.

Brownfields are the legacy of the industrial era. They’re generally contaminated with heavy metals or other pollutants. Unless they’re cleaned up, brownfields aren’t suitable for most residential or many commercial uses. What could otherwise be prime land goes fallow.

That’s why the people of Niagara Falls’ North End should embrace the federal Brownfield Opportunity Area program. Consultants and city officials have started a six-week minicourse for residents. And, from what we’re told, citizen participation is crucial to the process.

“This course will help residents to have a real strong sense about brownfields and their issues and opportunities,” said Willie Dunn, executive director of the Highland Avenue Revitalization Committee.

The North End was the site of numerous factories and plants that made Niagara Falls great. Now, what’s left of most of them is a hulking, worn-out building or no building at all, just those vacant brownfields.

But a $400,000 federal grant is betting that those contaminated fields can become fields of dreams when it comes to the rebirth and revitalization of this city.

Even though you might have missed Tuesday’s initial session, it’s pretty certain that Willie Dunn and others who have a brighter vision for the North End would be happy to have you join them for the five remaining sessions. More information is available at www.shapehighlandsfuture.com.

Brownfields clean up and redevelopment is critical, not only the North End but the rest of the city as well. The future of that land could well be the future of Niagara Falls as well. Now it the time to plan for that future.

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