NIAGARA FALLS – How will the story of the former Schoellkopf Power Station, which was destroyed in 1956 in a gorge collapse, be told?
An advisory board of local stakeholders is being formed to figure out just how that tale will be interpreted for future visitors.
The ruins of the power station in the Niagara Gorge just north of the Rainbow Bridge – now a nationally recognized historic site – has been a construction site since earlier this year as it becomes a boat storage facility for the Maid of the Mist Corp.
The panel, which could meet as soon as the first or second week of next month, will include representatives of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, Niagara Falls Historical Society, Preservation Buffalo Niagara and Buffalo Niagara Riverkeepers.
The New York Power Authority – which owns the land where the former power plant sat before two of its three main buildings were destroyed in the gorge collapse – has decided to form the group and involve interested groups in the process, said James C. Bragg, City Hall’s historic preservation specialist and secretary to the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.
The formation of the panel follows concerns about work at the site that arose several months ago when state officials from both the Power Authority and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation refused to share information about how the site was being handled.
Since then, reporters were given a site tour by state officials in early June. Several members of the commission, as well as Bragg, were given a tour of the site in late June.
When discussing the matter Wednesday night at the commission’s regular monthly meeting, members indicated the sides now have a better working relationship, but much work remains to be done.
Chairman Jamie Robideau told members they should not lose sight of the fact that each side has different objectives – the commission’s is to make sure the interpretation of the site is done correctly, while the state’s objective is to get the storage site built.
It is up to the stakeholders, including the commission, to keep the pressure on the state to do what they feel is right, Robideau said.
“I don’t think we should just say, ‘OK. Everything’s hunky-dory right now,’ ” he said.
State officials have mentioned a variety of figures for how much money they propose to spend on historical interpretation at the site, the commission said.
The state’s initial proposal to put three interpretive signs at the site was found unacceptable by Mayor Paul A. Dyster and Preservation Buffalo Niagara Executive Director Tom Yots, the commission said.
Robideau said construction at the site in the beginning could have been done more slowly and delicately, but now it is “on the right course.”