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TOURING LOVE CANAL?

Stranger things have happened, of course -- turning the Ozark Mountain town of Branson, Mo., into a successful resort comes to mind. But does the idea of making a tourist mecca of Love Canal strike anyone else as, oh . . . unlikely?

That's the plan. A group headed by County Legislator Samuel P. Granieri wants to develop a three-story, $10 million museum that would overlook the site of the nation's first Super Fund site. It would be an educational center that would attempt to wring some lemonade out of the environmental disaster that devastated the Love Canal neighborhood in the 1970s.

It's not that it's a horrible idea. Love Canal may have something useful to teach, after all, and millions of tourists already come to nearby Niagara Falls. Maybe enough of them would be interested in the story of a large-scale environmental disaster to make it a success. But there are other issues, such as:

Does the city want to expand the tourist area from the falls vicinity, itself, into a residential neighborhood?

Is it a well considered plan? Part of Niagara Falls' problem is that it has had no master plan to help chart its way to renewal. Is this just the latest in a series of questionable decisions? Remember the brilliant idea of an outdoor water park in an area with a three-month swimming season?

How does it square with Gov. George E. Pataki's proposal to create a new state corporation devoted to the renewal of Niagara Falls?

None of these questions is a killer, but all deserve careful thought, assuming a new hitch doesn't strangle the idea in its cradle.

Despite those questions, it's unwise to throttle the creative spirit. Even if a Love Canal museum is an unlikely proposal, unlikely proposals sometimes succeed. Where would we be without visionaries? As long as the public, especially those who live near Love Canal, have a voice in this matter and as long as private money drives this issue, have at it. Who knows, maybe it will work.

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