Niagara Gazette

Opinion

June 19, 2013

BRADBERRY: Preserving & protecting, our past?

Niagara Gazette — Though I have not yet had the opportunity to set foot on the celebrated initial improvements in the State Park at Niagara Falls, or to visit the proposed new Maid of the Mist launch pad at the old Shoellkopf site down below in the gorge, I have been hearing some pretty serious criticism of the way some of the work is being done.

Since I trust the judgment of some of the critics, I assume that some of what I’m hearing is true and correct, and that before things go too far, it may be wise to take some time to rationally consider the question; what are the best ways to preserve and protect our precious assets without spoiling them?

The broader question is not new to historic preservationists and historians such as I tend to fancy myself, that is, how do you balance the need for public access to historically important sites with the need to protect both the public and the site?

And in today’s often volatile, sometimes violent political environments, how should safety issues be dealt with in a way that maximizes public safety and security without depriving the people of the best visitor experiences possible?

As Preserve America (preserveamerica.gov) puts it on their web site, “Providing security for operations and personnel located in or near historic and archaeological sites presents unique and sometimes difficult challenges. In some cases, security measures implemented at historic and archaeological sites are obtrusive, lack design sensitivity, discourage public access and threaten the integrity of the resources they are designed to protect.”

It appears that, regarding Three Sisters Islands, some local critics have concluded that, in fact, the “improvements” fail on all of the above measures, that they are obtrusive, lack design sensitivity and, at the very least, “discourage public access.”

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