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Niagara Gazette Guest View, May 12, 2002 

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Dear Editor, 

In 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.

In 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.

Over 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.

In 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

In 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.

In 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.”

In 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.

Bob Baxter, Ransomville, NY

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Niagara Heritage Partnership

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Niagara Falls, New York 14302-1723