Niagara Gazette

June 30, 2014

EDITORIAL: State parks needs to rethink police barrack's location

Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Should the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation build a new parks police barracks on the edge of the Niagara Gorge?

Clearly, the answer is no. 

State parks officials have at least temporarily halted plans for the controversial project, only after hearing a chorus of concerns from area residents, Robert Moses Parkway removal advocates, local and state officials and even U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Niagara Falls and Buffalo.

Their collective disappointment helped grind work that had already begun to a halt. It seems, despite two public meetings on the subject, most critics were surprised to learn that trees lining the gorge were being cut down to make way for a 7,000-square-foot police station with accompanying parking lot. 

State parks officials, including regional Director Mark Thomas and Commission Chairwoman Cindy Letro, recently suggested that the work moved forward only after both public sessions, which took place this past December and January. They argued that the meetings gave the public a chance to raise any objections, with Letro stressing that the agency had done its “due diligence” during the process. 

While the opportunities may have been there, for whatever reason, scheduling or otherwise, few people took full advantage of them. 

Now that word is out, the public and elected officials have not only taken notice, they’ve spoken out about the need to revisit the issue in its entirety. 

With this particular project, state parks has managed to accomplish something truly amazing. It has united community and political forces of all stripes to oppose the agency’s idea of “improving” Niagara Falls State Park and the surrounding area.

The barracks proposal has now been opposed by the entire city council, its tourism advisory board and dozens of residents who believe building it as proposed would detract from the natural appeal of the gorge. Republican state lawmakers George Maziarz and John Ceretto have objected too, joining Higgins and Democratic Mayor Paul Dyster in the process. 

Months ago, Dyster’s administration offered alternate locations, some inside city limits, to allow for the state parks police station to be built without further encumbering Gorge-front property. 

State parks forged ahead and here we are today. 

The next step will hopefully involve a more robust dialogue about the best use of property situated on the edge of the community’s best natural resource. 

In our view, that means leaving this particular piece of property alone so that it can be accessed by the public in its natural state. 

There’s plenty of other places in the Niagara Falls area to build a new parks police station.

The edge of the Niagara Gorge isn’t one of them.