Niagara Gazette

Opinion

December 26, 2013

GUEST VIEW: Falls tourism and the parkway removal initiative

Niagara Gazette — Soon 2014 will begin — and 17 years will have passed since the Niagara Heritage Partnership first proposed the Robert Moses Parkway be totally removed between Niagara Falls and Lewiston.

The gorge rim, it was proposed, should then be restored to natural landscapes (with hiking and bicycling trails along the entire length), creating stunning new, accessible parkland; this restoration would have the potential to be the focus of a newly developed, regional market for ecotourism at Niagara.

A brief history of the issue is posted in abundance at www.niagaraheritage.org.

There are large numbers in favor of total removal — over 4,000 individuals have signed petitions, and 85 organizations, some state and national, with a membership base of over one million, have also endorsed removal.

While we’ve compiled impressive supporting numbers on the issue of parkway removal, we’ve scarcely scratched the surface; hundreds of thousands of more people in search of natural, green vacations for families and groups are poised to visit. We could offer tours designed especially for them; they could design their own, online, encompassing the region. We could use direct marketing techniques to encourage groups to hold conferences here for extended stays.

But when those opposed are not ignoring evidence of strong support for removal, what’s their reaction? They say, “Those people aren’t from around here.” Our response to that is: “Yes, that’s one definition of tourists.”

Additionally, in response to critics who’ve long insisted the NHP was unwilling to compromise, we have, in fact, compromised. In accordance with EDR findings, which determined the stretch of parkway between Findlay Drive and the city line was the most significant and should be the first section removed, we agreed that totally removing the parkway from downtown Niagara Falls to the city line at Devil’s Hole would still permit the goal of developing an ecotourism market and we’d be willing to compromise for that. This we did in spite of the fact that unrestricted parkway traffic would still be permitted to drive over the power project and under one end of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, something we’d argued was a threat to homeland security. We’d written to the proper authorities about this, and also informed Senator Maziarz and Assemblyman Cerreto (neither of whom responded).

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