The only good news about Niagara County's newest bout of riverfront foolishness is that nothing lasts, and that what is bad can also produce some good. Earth had its ice age, but the glaciers eventually receded and left behind the Adirondacks, the Great Lakes and other wonders.
So it's not completely foolish to hope that Niagara County's effort to squander millions of dollars meant to improve the Niagara River corridor is also a passing fancy; that its unconscionable rejection of the Greenway concept is nothing more than a transitory episode that will give way as the government cabal realizes what it is jeopardizing.
The proposed Niagara River Greenway project is the result of years of work by many people, and there is no question what they intended. Yet, elected officials of the county and various municipalities are scheming to rob the river of its restoration and, instead, use the money for their own parochial interests. It's wrong, and they should stop.
Niagara County's leaders seem not to have noticed, but they have on their doorstep an attraction that is simultaneously one of the world's most recognized and worst squandered. The brilliance of the Greenway is that it focuses investment on this misused resource, from its origin at Buffalo to it mouth at Youngstown.
Properly administered, the project holds the potential for remaking the riverfront of the Niagara Frontier, and with it, the region's economics and a large measure of its pride. Frittered away, as Niagara County's governing class prefers, it could produce scattered benefits but none of the concentrated wallop that wise and focused investment can accomplish.
Willfully misinterpreting the intention of the Greenway law, officials in Niagara County see the money as the signal for a public project free-for-all. It's as greedy as it is shortsighted, facts that most Niagara County taxpayers seem to recognize, given the solidity of their support for projects that hug the riverbank.
The problem is that Niagara County leaders are confusing -- purposely, one would have to think -- the $5 million a year they are to get from the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project with an additional $3 million a year, also coming from the New York Power Authority, but tied to Greenway projects.
Erie County municipalities seem to be solidly behind this concept. The only resistance so far is coming from Buffalo, whose concerns are procedural and which Greenway officials say should be easily addressed.
To their credit, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, and Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, have made it clear to Niagara County officials that the money is only to be used for projects along the river. It was important for them to speak up and, if necessary, they should follow through with their threat to write additional legislation restricting use of the money. Indeed, it would be better for Albany to abandon the project and rescind the money than for it to be wasted.
Here's hoping this adventure in imbecility soon ends and that, like the ice age, it leaves behind some lasting benefit. Better officials would be a fine start.