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MIXED PARKWAY USE IS THE RIGHT ROUTE TO TAKE

The Robert Moses Parkway reconfiguration controversy continues even as a pilot program is about to be instituted in an effort to find the most appropriate way to showcase the magnificence of the mighty Niagara River Gorge.

Lewiston Mayor Richard Soluri and State Sen. George Maziarz support maintaining a roadway presence along the gorge rim during this rejuvenation period and, hopefully, into the distant future.

Meanwhile, the Niagara Heritage Partnership continues to advocate total removal of this mode of access in favor of restrictions that preclude all but the most fit and persistent among us from enjoying everything the gorge parks have to offer. Kudos to Mayor Soluri and Sen. Maziarz for working to benefit their communities as a whole and not allowing themselves to be misled by a persistent minority with a narrow personal agenda.

To allow this group influence under the guise of promoting Niagara's heritage would be a huge mistake. Their goal of turning the Niagara Gorge into a faux wilderness is an act of cynicism that denies our past and jeopardizes our future.

An example of their misleading the public can be seen on their Web site. A photo of a poorly maintained roadway taken on a dirty winter day is compared to a lovely field of full bloom wildflowers, and the caption asks which is better. A more honest comparison would be a photo of a clean and nicely landscaped trail and roadway next to a photo of scraggly weeds, which is what wildflowers are after a few weeks of blooming. To suggest that the natural environment can't be reclaimed and enhanced without complete removal of the parkway is to shade the truth to match a preconceived goal.

Tourists don't cross the bridge to Canada seeking a "natural" experience. They go there for the beauty of the magnificent gardens and landscapes. They go there to gamble and to party. They go there because that's where the action is. A 20-foot wide ribbon of asphalt would not deter anyone from stopping and exploring our wonderful river.

The removal of the city-limits section of the Robert Moses Parkway a couple of decades ago may have been helpful to pedestrians, but it did nothing for the Niagara Falls economy. If there had been a thriving downtown with interesting shops and restaurants, no parkway presence would have deterred people from patronizing them. That part of the roadway is long gone, but the boarded-up shops remain as tourists continue to drive by unimpressed. What had been a coherent, river-connected experience has become a jumbled, confusing aggravation that would be made worse by further roadway removal.

Rather than provide easy access to those unfamiliar with Western New York, the parkway removal would require tourists to navigate a maze of streets and neighborhoods to get anywhere near the gorge, and even then they would have to walk or take a tram the last few hundred yards.

Intermediate string overflow Cannot justify line How interesting it is that the group advocates natural restoration so people can view nature's glory but rejects roadways, elevators, etc., precluding all but a fit few from fully appreciating the great gorge? That smacks of arrogance and is no different from the past exploitation by 19th century industrialists who shut off access to the public and justified it by claiming their mills and factories raised the standard of living and improved the lives of the people.

The partnership claims that not following their plan will cause us to risk losing it all. That's the old "sky is falling" Chicken Little argument. For all the past degradations, real and imagined, the river and gorge are still awesome and harbor an immense amount of flora and fauna.

I have slogged through Olmsted's baroque writings, and he clearly acknowledges the need to accommodate travelers and provide them access. Parks would be connected by parkways like the string that connects the pearls of a necklace. These parkways would be beautifully landscaped and maintained in the manor of Buffalo's former Humboldt Parkway before it was perverted into a soulless six-lane superhighway.

We have an opportunity to reshape the gorge rim into gentle meandering trails with a roadway through well-kept parkland that it was originally intended to be. It was wrong to install a superhighway as the focal point, but it is equally wrong to totally remove all road access in an attempt to regain the unattainable. The Niagara River Gorge is not a wilderness and hasn't been for over 200 years.

In this day and age, it is chic to promote a return to nature and cast the automobile as the villain in an overly technologically dependent world. The truth is that the car is the transportation king, and denying its place in the tourism experience is to compound past mistakes. It is the blending of technology and nature that makes the mighty Niagara's story such a fascinating one.

JOHN J. DUMBROSKY
North Tonawanda

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