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Rescuing Niagara; A year after critical travel story, state prepares to upgrade Falls park

Give Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State Legislature credit for taking to heart criticism of the upkeep of Niagara Falls State Park.

The recently announced $25 million face lift under a public works program should work wonders.

And if that weren't enough, five other state parks in Western New York -- notably Allegany State Park -- will receive a total of $4.7 million in repairs and improvements.

Cuomo's announcement of a total of $29.7 million on "New York Works" projects at six parks in Western New York will add to the quality of life of current residents and, hopefully, impress and attract visitors to the area. Not to mention the selling point of trying to coax businesses to locate here.

Parks will be improved across the state, but the biggest job is certainly the Niagara Falls State Park.

The good news comes nearly one year after unflattering attention was drawn to what a New York Times travel article dubbed as a Niagara Falls State Park that is "shabby" and "underfinanced." Other not-so generous adjectives were used to accurately describe the oldest state park in the nation, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.

It goes without saying, but here it is: Niagara Falls is an international destination.

Usefully for the park, perhaps, the shameful state of affairs the Falls park had fallen into was chronicled by someone who knows the area through experience. New York Times travel writer Barbara Ireland is a former editor of The Buffalo News editorial page. Her words were backed up then by a conservation group, Alliance for New York State Parks, whose director, Erik Kulleseid, complained state parks had been "allowed to deteriorate to the point where public experience at parks is being diminished "

Reached by The News following the governor's announcement, he expressed delight: "It's recognition that Niagara Falls is a special place and should be the best representation of New York State," he said, adding that his group is also trying to raise private dollars. "This kind of public investment is only going to help us."

Reportedly, funding for the revitalization at the Falls park would 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 and state lawmakers have done the right thing in caring for our parks, especially for a park as historic and renowned as the one at Niagara Falls.