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Visitors' services above and below the American Falls will be modernized and improved under an $11.5 million concession contract signed with Delaware North Park Services Inc., according to state park officials.

Under the three-year contract beginning this year, Delaware North is to make cosmetic improvements to the facilities and to enhance food services by adding popular foods that distinguish Western New York and the Niagara Frontier.

In addition, retail shops in Niagara Reservation State Park will expand their inventories of merchandise to include the work of local artists.

"The rise of what is being termed eco-tourism is attracting many visitors to destinations such as Niagara Falls, so we feel it is critical to develop programs that enhance the unique natural experiences available at Niagara Reservation State Park," said Henry Brodowski, Western District deputy director of state parks.

"The Niagara Frontier State Park Commission, an advisory board appointed by the governor, will guide the company's activities along environmentally sensitive and culturally appropriate paths," Brodowski said.

Current locations to be taken over by Delaware North are the Visitors Center in Prospect Park, the gift shop in the gorge below the Falls, and the Cave of the Winds building and Top of The Falls restaurant, both of them on Goat Island.

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