The Niagara Heritage Partnership advocates removal of all four lanes of the Robert Moses Parkway from Niagara Falls to Lewiston, approximately 6.5 miles of pavement, to reclaim the natural environment.
Doing so would protect and provide for native plants and animals unique to the gorge rim, the old growth forests at Deveaux Woods and the small, ancient trees in the gorge walls. It would allow hiking and biking trails and encourage eco-tourism, heritage tourism and cultural tourism by honoring Native American and African American historic sites. And it would provide a living classroom that would enhance ecological, environmental and horticultural programs taught at Niagara University and Niagara County Community College.
Road removal, reclamation and restoration would also once again allow residents access to their waterfront. Eliminating the Robert Moses Parkway entirely would help revitalize Niagara Falls' Main Street as well as other business districts by redirecting traffic.
If this proposal is seen by some as lacking quality-of-life merit and economic value, what then is the widely accepted, genuine definition of a greenway? The Conservation Fund says greenways offer a way to preserve vital habitat corridors, promote plant and animal species diversity, provide much-needed space for outdoor recreation and link us to our communities. By lessening our dependence on the automobile, they also can improve air quality and reduce road congestion.
Clearly, what the partnership advocated for nearly 10 years should be enthusiastically embraced. Why hasn't the Niagara River Greenway Commission endorsed the partnership's visionary proposal?
Author Wallace Stegner once said, "If you don't know where you are, you don't know who you are."
At each greenway meeting, citizen advocates ask for consideration, offer information and provide supporting data. Yet some commissioners maintain an ongoing refusal to be educated about environmental issues. Why is this?
The state parks and several Greenway Commission members were involved stakeholders in the New York Power Authority relicensing process. Why would greenway monies, specifically earmarked during relicensing as reparation for environmental damage, fund renovations to the Deveaux Woods' campus for a high school's administration offices? How does this promote tourism?
If officials honestly intend to create a greenway, they should be eager to formulate a genuine definition based on work already accomplished and to then educate residents, the public, and the tourist and business sectors about every beneficial aspect.
Several East Coast states have adopted and implemented the American Greenways Program's definition as their mission. All are successful and endorse their genuine greenways on Web sites, citing outstanding economic, environmental and quality-of-life benefits. They protected their unique landscapes, and we should do the same.
Michelle Vanstrom is spokesperson for the Niagara Frontier Wildlife Habitat Council.