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GROUP WANTS MORE OF PARKWAY REMOVED

A new civic group in the Cataract City is voicing support for expansive redevelopment plans -- and adding a suggestion that part of the past be dismantled.

The Niagara Heritage Partnership is calling for removal of the four-lane Robert Moses Parkway along the top of the gorge between the Schoellkopf Museum and Lewiston.

"We're not exactly starting small," said Robert Borgatti of Lewiston, one of a half-dozen co-founders who are now seeking more members.

The group supports the "Niagara: The Park" concept proposed by the Niagara Redevelopment Corp., Borgatti said.

The partnership proposal, though, calls for the removal of the major riverside road link between Niagara Falls and Lewiston, a highway that passes both the Whirlpool and Devil's Hole state parks.

Portions of parkway in downtown Niagara Falls were torn up or scaled back to local traffic years ago, to remove the highway barrier between the city and the falls.

The Partnership wants "the restoration of parkland and native flora" along the gorge.

"While the first thought might be that part of this roadbed would be a cost-effective route for people-movers traveling to various points of interest along the gorge, the philosophy of highway as central design feature has been rejected by university urban planners for the last 30 years," the proposal notes.

"Retaining the parkway would be a halfway measure, a concession to what's easiest and quickest, not what's best for the region long-term."

According to the group of Niagara Falls, Lewiston, Lockport and Ransomville residents, eliminating the parkway -- except for part of one lane converted to bike and pedestrian paths -- would have aesthetic and environmental benefits, enlarge parklands and draw national and international attention in the growing ecotourism market.

Re-routing traffic also could help revitalize Main Street and boost new city economic corridors.

The Niagara Redevelopment Corp. concept currently being discussed in the Falls involves a promise of private investment totaling $130 million over eight years, to make the city itself a world-class tourist destination.