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State parks to get $29.7 million badly needed upgrade

Niagara Falls State Park, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, will get a $25 million face-lift under a public works program announced Wednesday in Albany.

In addition, five other state parks in Western New York, most notably Allegany State Park, will receive a total of $4.7 million in repairs and improvements.

Despite its worldwide popularity, the park at the brink of the falls has become somewhat down at the heels because of deferred maintenance under tight state budgets. Its deteriorating condition caught the attention of a New York Times travel writer last year who called its condition "shabby." Now it has caught the attention of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State Legislature.

Cuomo announced Wednesday that the state will spend a total of $29.7 million on what is being called "New York Works" projects at six parks in Western New York.

Parks will be improved across the state. The work at Niagara Falls State Park is by far the most ambitious in Western New York, which State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey described as "the top Western New York tourism destination and a vital economic engine for the region," with more than 8 million visitors a year.

Improvements are planned to the park's most popular and heavily used areas, including:

*Rehabilitation of its major viewing areas, including Luna Island, Terrapin Point, Stedman's Bluff, Prospect Point and Three Sisters Islands; park trails and pathways; and scenic overlooks and gorge trails in nearby Whirlpool State Park.

*Improvements to the pedestrian and vehicle entrances to the park and parking lots, including improved way-finding signs.

Reconstruction of the Cave of the Winds area, one of the park's most popular attractions.

Design of a replacement of the deteriorating American Falls Bridge, which currently is reinforced with a temporary bailey bridge. Money for the construction is expected to be included in a future budget.

Improvements to the park's aging water, sewer, storm water and electrical systems.

Funding for the revitalization at the Falls park will come primarily from Niagara River Greenway money provided by the New York Power Authority as part of its relicensing agreement for the Niagara Power Project.

The Governor's Office also announced these other park allocations for Western New York:

*$2.4 million to upgrade electrical systems in the Red House and Cain Hollow campgrounds in Allegany State Park.

*$950,000 to rebuild the Cain Hollow and Camp 5 restroom and shower buildings in the Quaker Camping Area at Allegany State Park.

*$150,000 to replace the failing building around the historic carousel in Midway State Park.

*$500,000 to rebuild a comfort station at Evangola State Park.

*$550,000 to rebuild a comfort station in Golden Hill State Park.

*$150,000 to install a new fueling system at the marina in Long Point State Park.

Construction is expected to be spread over the next several years.

email: rbaldwin@buffnews.com