A project will soon be underway to allow visitors a more in-depth ecological experience along one of the best-kept secrets at the Niagara Gorge – the 43 acres between the Whirlpool Rapids and Rainbow bridges.
Nature’s wonders will be more visible thanks to a $1 million project being undertaken by the Western New York Land Conservancy. The funding comes from the Niagara River Greenway Ecological Standing Committee.
The project will remove invasive plants and return native species that have been forced out. It will be aimed at providing visitors a natural place to spot bald eagles, hawks and other raptors, lake sturgeon, turtles and even ancient species of plants growing on the gorge walls.
As News reporter T.J. Pignataro described, the Niagara Gorge is expected to become a “comprehensive botanical guide for the Buffalo Niagara region.”
Some may be surprised to learn that more than 80 percent of all the plant species in the region can be found somewhere in the gorge. The protection of those plant species, along with birds, fish and other wildlife, is vital to the environment and economy. Niagara Falls is a worldwide tourist attraction because of its natural wonders. It is in the best interest of the local economy – even for residents who never set foot near the site – to preserve and protect its heritage.
Moreover, it is the right thing to do. The gorge is home to some rare and threatened plant species, including ferns that trace their origins back to the time of the dinosaurs.
Darrel Morrison, an internationally renowned landscape designer and professor at the University at Wisconsin in Madison, and his design partner, Nancy Aten, are the world-class experts who will take on this enriching task.
Morrison designed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas. Pignataro said that Morrison “is considered the nation’s leading authority on native plant restoration.”
Designs will not start until Morrison makes at least one more visit to the site, but already his ideas – elements of an oak savannah and an eastern grassland with a diversity of native plant species – hold promise for a reimagined experience for visitors and, more important, ecological preservation.