Niagara Gazette Guest View,
May 12, 2002
1763, Seneca warriors killed nearly eighty British soldiers, rolling
their wagon train into the Niagara Gorge.
This event became known as the Devil’s Hole Massacre.
In 1887, the Olmsted and Vaux plan for reclaiming the landscapes
around the falls of Niagara from inappropriate commercial interests was
initiated to preserve those parklands for future generations.
Niagara Parks Commissioners were very influential in helping to
achieve this goal. In 1927,
the gorge area where the Devil’s Hole Massacre took place was
established as a state park. In
1933, as part of F.D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Civilian Conservation
Corps, a creation of presidential advisor and former Niagara County
resident Rexford G. Tugwell, began to put the unemployed to work.
Some of them labored in new state parks, in our region at
Devil’s Hole, where they constructed stone walls along the gorge edge.
1962, a large section of this park, including portions of the stone
walls and the natural gorge wall was cut away to provide an access road
to the newly constructed power generating plant—and four lanes of
concrete were poured across its already small gorge rim area.
In 1997, The Niagara Heritage Partnership proposed that the gorge
top parkway lanes be removed between Niagara Falls and Lewiston, New
York, and that the natural landscapes of Devil’s Hole State Park be
restored, that it be treated as a memorial to all those who died in
early conflict on the Niagara Frontier.
the next three years this proposal gained widespread grassroots support
from environmental, conservation, recreational and other groups with a
combined membership of nearly one million and from thousands of
individual citizens. Niagara
Parks Commissioners remained silent.
2001, New York State Parks closed two of the four parkway lanes for a
“pilot program,” but refused to share the rationale by which
information would be gathered and decisions made.
State Parks comments suggested they believed two lanes of closed
parkway running parallel to two commuter lanes would be appealing to
hikers and bicyclists. Niagara
Heritage Partnership objected to this “pilot” in a letter with over
200 cosigners, which is available at www.niagaraheritage.org.
August of 2001, NHP wrote to Jean Knox, chairperson of the Niagara Parks
Commission, asking that the Commissioner consider meeting with
representatives from environmental groups to discuss how mutual goals
involving the parks might be achieved.
We received no response to this letter.
In December of 2001, we wrote again, to remind the Commission of
the first letter, and to point out that it is their responsibility to
convey the concerns of citizens to the appropriate levels of state
government. We asked for
the courtesy of a reply, but did not receive one.
These letters are also on the web site.
February 2002, Knox wrote a letter-to-the-editor to defend the
Commission against suggestions it was less than effective in meeting its
responsibilities. She said
the Commissioners shared a “passion for protecting and
strengthening” the parks and were committed to helping the state to be
“responsible stewards of New York’s valuable natural, historical,
and cultural resources.”
April 2002, Commissioner Harvey Albond proposed a southbound entrance to
the commuter lanes of the parkway at Devil’s Hole, because it was
reported, “some people, including New York Power Authority
employees” would like it. This
would spare this handful of people the inconvenience of driving five
minutes through city streets. Albond
appears to be attempting to reduce complaints about the “pilot,” no
matter how inconsequential, in an effort to ensure the retention of at
least a two-lane commuter route. Is
this where his passion for “protecting and strengthening” the parks
has led him? Is this
stewardship? Stay tuned.
Baxter, Ransomville, NY