June 09, 2008
Press Contact:>Angela Berti
More than $8 million in improvements in the works
World famous Niagara Falls State Park is in store for an overhaul of more than $8 million under a $132 million statewide spending plan to jumpstart the revitalization of New York State parks and historic sites.
"The tourism industry contributes significantly to Western New York's economy, and one of the industry's mainstays, Niagara Falls, attracts nearly eight million visitors each year," said Governor David A. Paterson. "It is imperative we take care of this important asset. The stewardship projects underway at Niagara Falls – and all of our state parks – will ensure that park visitors continue coming to enjoy everything that these great facilities have to offer."
"The number of visitors to this park each year is staggering and we are now taking steps to ensure that our visitors are seeing the very best we can give them," Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Carol Ash said. "We must restore-and take steps to protect—the environment we have in this park while providing visitors with the up close and personal experience of viewing the Falls.
In April, Governor Paterson and the Legislature approved a state budget that advances a $132 million capital improvement spending plan for New York's 178 state parks and 35 historic sites. The largest funding component of the plan is a $75 million state budget allocation. It, along with other specific spending commitments from sources such as the Greenway and existing public funding commitments, makes this program the single largest capital investment initiative in the history of the state park system. The revitalization program will enable the state to begin addressing the extensive capital needs of the parks system – needs that have been estimated at approximately $650 million.
Locally, the plan includes more than $8 million this year for work in Niagara Falls State Park. Among the project funded under the plan are:
Replacement of Orin Lehman Visitor Center roof and plaza- Phase one of this project was completed this spring and phase two will begin in the fall. Work includes replacing the roof of the lower level of the visitor center that also serves as the plaza at the main entrance to the visitor. Phase two will address the same needs on the north side of the building and will begin later September.
Design study of the Goat Island pedestrian bridge: Results of a feasibility study will be available by the end of the summer and will outline the steps that will be needed to repair this historical bridge.
Parking Lot #2 improvements: Work will take place this fall to re-pave and improve the landscape in this busy parking lot.
Construction of a shelter at the Cave of the Winds: This open air structure will provide visitors protection from elements while they view the gorge. Work is expected to begin in September and be completed by December.
Robert Moses Parkway South.Public meetings will begin in July to determine what the plan should be to restore this parkway and make this roadway more historically aligned with the State Park while providing access to the city of Niagara Falls.
Greenway projects that have been previously announced will begin in the fall. The list is as follows:
Goat Island landscape restoration plan:Goat Island and the many small islands surrounding it encompass the most unique ecological habitats in the Niagara Reservation State Park. The Goat Island complex has declined over the years due to intensive use, outdated management practices and the vagaries of nature. This project will result in the completion of a landscape restoration plan for Goat Island that considers historic, ecological, visitor, and park maintenance factors.
Luna Island and Stedman's Bluff restoration plan.This project will mitigate the effect of the millions of visitors to this scenic overlook. landscaping with better defined walkways will be implemented.
Three Sisters Island restoration plan. This project will employ a comprehensive approach to recapture the historic Olmsted vision, renew degraded landscapes and ecological communities, and improve access for park users. Projects will include construction of a pathway system to control and restrict pedestrian movement in sensitive areas and upgrade the main trail between the bridges, upgrade and rehabilitation of two pedestrian bridges and upgraded interpretive signage and enhanced handicap accessibility.
"We at state parks are extremely excited about this historic, concerted effort to improve this spectacular asset," said Ash. "At the same time, the revitalization of our parks and historic sites gets underway, we ask our patrons to be patient with any inconveniences they may encounter,"
Each year, more than 55 million people visit New York State parks and historic sites, making them a key component of the tourism industry. A 2007 survey indicated that nearly 80 percent of park visitors participate in dining, shopping, or recreational activities outside the park during a park visit.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation administers 178 parks and 35 state historic sites. For more information about state parks and historic sites in New York, please visit www.nysparks.com.