THE NIAGARA HERITAGE
FOR THE REMOVAL OF THE
ROBERT MOSES PARKWAY
AND RESTORATION OF
1997, the Niagara Heritage Partnership proposed in public forum that all
four lanes of the
Robert Moses Parkway
along the Niagara gorge rim be removed between
and Lewiston, NY and that natural landscapes be restored.
This would provide both economic and environmental benefits. The unique
botanical character of the gorge and rim would be protected and extended,
enhancing the natural features of our region. This largely
self-sustaining, restored gorge rim would allow us to promote our region
as an eco-tourist destination, attracting a new population of visitors who
desire a “green” vacation; traffic redirected to alternate routes would
help to revitalize urban business districts.
What we envision: a long gorge rim park with hiking and bicycling
trails running through landscapes restored according to the philosophy of
Frederick Law Olmsted, new forests being nurtured to extend the old growth
forest at DeVeaux and at other appropriate locations, long-grass,
wildflower meadows attractive to butterflies, ground nesting birds, and
other wildlife. (Olmsted’s
plan is on our website.
The old growth at DeVeaux should be encouraged to expand toward the
cut-grass park at Whirlpool State Park which, years ago, was part of this
forest. Old growth specimen trees still grow there.
cultural and historical heritage should be reclaimed at Devil’s
State Park where parkway lanes currently dishonor it. The reestablishment
of native flora here, as well as at other locations, would demonstrate the
respect we have for our shared history.
The NHP proposal has generated support from the largest, most broad-based,
international, grassroots coalition ever to come together on an issue
involving the Niagara Frontier. The coalition continues to grow.
is supported by the Seneca Nation of Indians, the Niagara County
Environmental Council, the Erie County Environmental Management Council,
as well as thousands of individual citizens, and a broad coalition of 65
organizations, including business groups, bicycling clubs, environmental
organizations, Niagara Falls’ block clubs and others, with a combined
membership of over one million. Over 2,000 individual signatures are on
the petition at www.niagaraheritage.org, where new supporters may also
sign. (Two thousand additional signatures are on paper petition pages.) A
complete list of the supporting groups is also available on the Niagara
Heritage Partnership website.
Robert Moses Parkway
removal would create waterfront access and significant wildlife habitat,
protect the watershed, and create a genuine greenway along this most
unique length of river corridor.
The botanical uniqueness of the Niagara gorge and related areas is
authoritatively discussed in several articles by P.M. Eckel, a former
Niagara Frontier resident, currently with the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
The articles, results of her botanical fieldwork here and persuasive
arguments for authentic restorations can be read at
www.niagaraheritage.org under “Flora at DeVeaux College Woods,” “Notes on
the Limits of the Sacred Precinct on Scovell’s Knoll (Oak Hill),
NY” and “Bob Baxter’s Niagara Greenhouse.”
According to DOT figures, the small number of commuters who use the
parkway as a highway could easily be absorbed by alternative routes:
Lewiston Rd.-Main St.;
Highland Ave.-Eleventh St.-Portage Rd; Hyde Park Blvd; Military Rd; and
the I-190. Traveling these routes adds only minutes to the commute.
Increasing traffic on the alternatives, including that of visitors, has
the potential to help with urban revitalization.
Current vehicle access to the gorge edge at existing scenic vantage points
such as the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, Whirlpool State Park, and
Devil’s Hole State Park would be maintained with the Partnership proposal.
Wheelchair users, the handicapped, the elderly, and others who simply
prefer to drive to these locations would still be able to do so.
That the parkway is damaging to the fragile gorge and river ecology is not
in dispute. Five and a half miles of four-lane parkway equals nearly three
million square feet of rapid run-off surface. Hundreds of tons of salt are
spread annually on this highway; routine herbicide applications to hinder
“undesirable” vegetation contributes to this contamination introduced into
an environment supporting centuries old white pine and other botanical
communities unique to New York State. The NY Office of State Parks,
Recreation and Historic Preservation documents 231,738.75 tons of carbon
emissions annually from vehicles using the gorge parkway.
Restored natural landscapes along a parkway-free gorge rim would provide
economic and environmental potential for our region. It would enlarge the
Globally Significant Important Bird Area by over 300 acres, creating a
green space attractive to those seeking green vacations. Visitors could
select hiking experiences according to their interests: within the gorge
itself, or a more casual walk along the blacktop rim path, and wonderful
family or group bicycling trips that would incorporate Lewiston and
Youngstown as destinations. For more experienced and ambitious cyclers,
the ride would extend along the upper river to Grand Island and beyond,
and would also link up with the historic Seaway Trail at Lake Ontario.
The eco-tourist market is significant worldwide and clearly
represents a niche market for the Niagara Frontier, a new population of
tourists over and beyond the number of visitors who travel here annually.
Evidence of this is readily available: www.ecotourism.org, for example.
How much would this cost and who will pay? The lowest informal
estimate we’ve been given is slightly over three million dollars. This was
for concrete removal only, not restoration, and is a price that would
escalate rapidly if the job were tackled piecemeal. Half of this amount of
money has already been wasted on the current unsatisfactory “pilot.” Some
potential funding sources: US Department of Agriculture & Forest Service,
NorthEast area; the National Park Service; Watershed & Clean Water
Stewardship; Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council; EPA
Educational to Promote Environmental Stewardship.
Additionally, The Niagara River Greenway Commission recently created by
Gov. Pataki, with commitments from the New York Power Authority for
millions of dollars in funding, makes this commission the logical body to
move this proposal forward. One of its earliest challenges will be to
evaluate the rationale of the Niagara Heritage Partnership proposal. We
trust that the commission will conclude that establishing a genuine
greenway along the Niagara Gorge rim requires the removal of all four
lanes of parkway. Without four-lane removal, potential benefits will not
At the press conference where Gov. Pataki signed the Commission into law,
he made positive remarks about Frederick Law Olmsted, saying, “we now have
a unique opportunity to reclaim the Olmsted vision of a magnificent
waterfront here on the Niagara Frontier, not so much for ourselves, but
for our children and their children. And we are going to do it. We are not
going to miss the opportunity we have been given, after 100 years of
The Niagara Heritage Partnership strongly endorses these comments, and we
look forward to their being translated into action, to seeing the Olmsted
vision become reality.
The environmental groups mentioned by Gov. Pataki as supporting the
greenway concept, The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, and the Friends
of the Buffalo Niagara River, are groups which have endorsed the proposal
for Niagara gorge parkway removal and the restoration of natural
The Niagara Heritage Partnership proposal is a specific plan for a part of
the larger greenway and is also compatible with and complementary to other
initiatives for our river, gorge, and region: the establishment of an
International Peace Park, a National Heritage Area Designation, a World
Biosphere Reserve designation from UNESCO.