Niagara Gazette — On Dec. 3 it was announced that Niagara University plans to develop a center for “high-tech innovation” regarding tourism development. This center has been named the Niagara Global Tourism Institute, and as such, according to Bonnie Rose, Niagara University’s vice president of academic affairs, will focus their “strong commitment and drive” to “bring everything we have home to Niagara Falls and Western New York as quickly as possible.” Mayor Paul Dyster strongly supports the Institute.
That point aside (though it’s not a minor one if that perception shapes early attitudes that might influence the Institute), one of the Tourist Institute’s initial investigations should be: Which new populations of tourists could be directly marketed with the gorge parkway totally removed and the restoration of natural scenery underway? All the facets of ecotourism should be the major focus. The Institute has stated the mapping “out of assets that we have” will be one of their first research projects; for a list of the regional assets we have related to wildlife, of interest especially to birders, www.nfwhc.org would be of help. That the Niagara River and its shorelines has been designated a Globally Significant Important Bird Area since 1996 should also be of major interest. The Audubon Society and other environmental organizations should be consulted to assist with this mapping of assets.
Envisioning miles of a vibrant new park along the gorge rim, young trees beginning to grow, long-grass, wildflower meadows attracting ground-nesting birds, butterflies fluttering in this serene landscape, the old growth forest at DeVeaux extending its edges toward Whirlpool Park where it will flourish into an old growth over a century from now for those not yet born — and then imagining the naturalists, hikers and hiking clubs, the bicyclists, photographers, artist-painters, those interested in the restoration, the reclaiming, of natural scenery, the botanists for native plant life unique to this area, geologists, and others, both residents and visitors, for whom the park would be attractive year around, summer and winter, spring and fall for migrating birds, and for the autumn foliage — this is necessary for the Tourism Institute if it is genuinely interested in the use of “cutting-edge innovation” to revitalize the tourism market here at Niagara.
Bob Baxter is the conservation chair of the Niagara Heritage Partnership.Bob Baxter is the conservation chair of the Niagara Heritage Partnership.