Artpark is the faded jewel of the Niagara River. Apart from the waterfall, itself, nothing on either side of this famous waterway surpasses the potential of this spectacular park. In recent years, nothing has been so badly underused.
Tucked into a quiet corner of the Village of Lewiston, Artpark's storied past has included performances by such A-list attractions as Tony Bennett, Sonny Rollins and Ella Fitzgerald. As state support of the park declined, so did its ability to attract the top talents, and a gorgeous park that should be a potential destination for people living within 100 miles slipped from the public imagination.
But something sparked last year, when a free Tuesday night concert series attracted an average audience of 6,000, including a throng of 12,000 that packed the outdoor amphitheater to hear Blood, Sweat and Tears. Recognizing the need for additional space and better seating, park officials decided the other day on a big change: They plan to dismantle the Art-El, an elevated boardwalk previously used to host workshops and studios for artists and artisans.
That may seem like heresy to some, since the boardwalk has long been one of the park's distinctive features. But times change, and facilities age. The 31-year-old structure had outlived its usable life span, and with the growing success of the outdoor concert series, the need for space clearly outweighs the need for the boardwalk.
This is a smart decision, one that may help the park, the Village of Lewiston and the entire Niagara region to reclaim some of its lost tourism luster. A summer night of music overlooking the spectacular chasm of the Niagara River makes for an unforgettable evening. Here's hoping this forward-looking plan marks a turning point in the reclamation of this neglected gem.