Niagara Gazette


July 11, 2013

GUEST VIEW: There's no defense for Three Sisters Island 'upgrades'

Niagara Gazette — A June 28 letter by Erik Kulleseid took Niagara Gazette columnist Bill Bradberry to task for his thoughtful and well-written critique of the recent Three Sister Island “rehabilitation.” Bradberry’s column was a model of carefully crafted and qualified language written by a man who’d regularly visited the islands since he was a child; his failure, according to Kulleseid, were criticisms “completely off the mark” because he hadn’t inspected the work in person.

Kulleseid lists affiliations after his name as if they will lend credence to his misperceptions: Senior vice president of the Open Space Institute and executive director of Alliance for New York State Parks, Albany. Unfortunately, his view from Albany appears severely compromised by his role as an apologist for State Parks.

Here are several examples: He writes “We all recall the uproar and local embarrassment two short years ago when a New York Times travel writer described the park as ‘shabby’ and ‘underfinanced.’” But we all don’t recall it, and when we do, we recall it accurately. Here’s what the travel writer, Barbara Ireland, actually said: “Meanwhile, in Niagara Falls, New York, the visitor who ventures inside the shabby, underfinanced state park is surprised to discover vestiges of something like a natural landscape.”

What she was noting was the loss of what Olmsted valued most, natural landscapes, ie, trees, undergrowth, trilliums, red and white, on the forest floor, perhaps wild grape vines — foliage. It was through this foliage that the visitor was to glimpse the water, and then, minutes later, to appreciate a fuller view of the powerful river framed by it, the rush of white-water rapids; this was the experience Olmsted desired for the visitor and how he designed it.

Kulleseid also used general and vague phrases in praise of the governor, and by extension State Parks, for doing wonderful things, one of which was “reopening vistas.” But what does “reopening vistas” mean in reality? Start the chainsaws. It means cutting trees down. This helped to create the impoverished scene that Barbara Ireland perceived and reported.

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