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Restore park to its glory; Money raised at Falls State Park should stay there to fund renovations

That didn't take long. Only weeks after a New York Times travel piece described Niagara Falls State Park as "shabby" and "underfinanced," the state has announced that it will advance $3 million for capital improvements while it looks for an additional $82 million to fund other repairs identified by New York State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey.

That's a start, but more is needed. As Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., demanded last week, there needs to be "a clear and aggressive plan to revitalize the park," the state's busiest and the oldest state park in the nation.

Also needed is an understanding of how the park was allowed to deteriorate so much, if only to take steps to prevent it from happening again. That it could happen at all is mind-boggling, given the international stature of the Niagara Falls name and the competition from the better-funded park across the Niagara River in Ontario.

The Alliance for New York State Parks has echoed the Times writer's criticism of the condition of the park, pointing to worn-out paths and railings and failing sewer, water, drainage and electrical systems.

The $3 million in initial state repair funding will be targeted toward "aging facilities at the state park's most heavily trafficked areas," according to Harvey's office. Meanwhile, Harvey is exploring joining with the alliance and other entities in opportunities to raise private support and sponsorships for restoration projects in the park.

All are worth doing, particularly private support along the lines of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy and its larger peer group, New York City's Central Park Conservancy. But Harvey should not stop there. She should also consider emulating the Province of Ontario's system that allows its Falls park to keep the money it brings in. In New York, Niagara Falls State Park is a cash cow, but the state spends most of the money elsewhere. It's galling and self-defeating, given the obvious need to maintain this popular and famous park.

We hope Schumer, Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-Lewiston, and other supporters of the park will maintain vigil over progress in finding the funds and putting them to work in the park. The work is too important for there to be unnecessary delay in bringing it back up to snuff.

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