Niagara Gazette — State officials, contractors and politicians celebrated a $25 million commitment to improve Niagara Falls State Park Friday morning, touring job sites and cutting ribbons into the afternoon.
The officials touted projects at Luna Island, the Cave of the Winds and Three Sisters Islands where work is complete and broke ground at Prospect Point where a facelift is scheduled to be finished by the spring of 2015. Civic leaders and reporters joined the state officials as they toured the park.
Rose Harvey, the commissioner of state parks, said Niagara Falls State Park has been a victim of its own popularity. With an average of 8 million visitors a year the park has become worn out and is in need of attention.
"Remember, it is the oldest state park in the nation and as such has been entertaining visitors for a very long time," Harvey said. "So It is tired. It's been loved."
The park — deemed the Niagara Reservation and protected by state legislation signed into law in 1885 — was charecterized as "shabby" in a New York Times travel section article from 2011 that was noted by Harvey and several legislators on hand.
Harvey said the improvements — funded largely with Niagara River Greenway money, part of the 2007 Niagara Power Project relicensing agreement — will go a long way to turn the Fredrick Law Olmsted designed park from "shabby" to beautiful.
"Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo committed to Western New York and said 'make something happen,'" Harvey said. "We did."
Three park areas have been completed at a a total cost of $4.6 million to date:
• $1.8 million for restoration work at Three Sisters Island
• $1.1 million for improvements on Luna Island
• $1.7 million for the renovation of the tunnel that leads visitors to the gorge and new elevators the Cave of the Winds
The $4.3 million renovation of Prospect Point is the next step in what officials described as the "many" projects planned throughout the park.