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State Parks Moves In, Mops up Local Tourist Industry

By James Hufnagel

It's said that the residents of Venice, Italy look forward to this time of year, now that the hordes of foreign tourists have departed and they are left to enjoy their beautiful city, with its canals and medieval architecture, by themselves.

The same can be said about Niagara Falls. Like the Venetians, many of us look forward to the autumn, when we get to savor the amazing sites and vistas of the falls and gorge without having to deal with the maddening crowds, the helicopters buzzing overhead, jet boats joyriding on the river and trolleys nearly running you over on the paths of Goat Island.

Nothing against tourists, of course, since the eight million tourists who visit Niagara Falls State Park every year, filling the parking lots, taking in the sights, riding Maid of the Mist and touring Cave of the Winds, spending their dollars on Top of the Falls lunches and dinners and purchasing Observation Tower souvenirs, keep the economy humming along.

Not our local economy, mind you, but the economies of James Glynn, billionaire Jeremy Jacobs of Delaware North, New York State Parks and Albany.

The leaves were peaking in the Niagara Gorge as recently as last week, culminating in the truly spectacular colors and warm hues characteristic of the dozens of species of trees there, and further north in Niagara County along the shoreline of Lake Ontario leaves are just now coming to peak, thanks to the later onset of cold snaps due to the close proximity of the massive, temperature buffering lake.

One of the best places to take in the fall colors this week would be Four Mile Creek State Park, located just two miles east of Fort Niagara on the lakefront in the town of Porter, but be forewarned before you drive north on the Robert Moses Parkway to this state park (and thank God for the parkway, without which these northern locales would remain as wild and inaccessible as remote areas of the North Pole), because the park is closed.

Here's why: The tourists are gone for the year. The only folks left to enjoy the lovely leaves on the picturesque waterfront of Four Mile Creek State Park would be us local schmucks. Better to close the gates and slap a padlock on them.

According to its State Parks web site, Four Mile Creek State Park "is located near the shores of Lake Ontario and offers spectacular panoramic views. The park has hiking trails for campers along the densely wooded bluffs. The marsh at the mouth of Four Mile Creek is home to fauna such as great blue herons, white tail deer and to flora such as stunning white trillium and greenbrier."

The main feature of Four Mile Creek State Park, however, is its 275 postage-stamp-sized campsites, each of which rake in a basic $17.25 a day for State Parks. Various charges are added on, for electricity ($6-$8 depending on usage), how close you camp to the lake ($4 extra for "prime", $6 for "prime waterfront"), $6 to use the dump station and $6 if you have an extra vehicle. Making a reservation adds $9.

Therefore, a conservative estimate of $25-$30 per campsite totals approximately $7000 in daily receipts collected by State Parks.

Unsurprisingly, State Parks markets Four Mile Creek State Park as a kind of feeder for Niagara Falls State Park. Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds and other state-contracted attractions are promoted on the web site, as they are at the park's visitor center. And to preclude campers from getting lost and wandering into the city of Niagara Falls where they might accidentally spend some money, directions to take the Robert Moses Parkway directly into the Niagara Falls State Park are considerately provided.

If you "google" the historic village of Youngstown, NY, the home of Fort Niagara, host to the Youngstown Level Regatta, a sailing regatta that annually draws thousands of visitors from all over the world, and which features several quaint shops, cafes and pubs, you'll find the only lodging in town is a single bed and breakfast, The Ontario House.

Heading a few miles in the other direction, the village of Wilson, also the home of a fine Lake Ontario harbor, several marinas and a popular annual fishing derby, has only one bed and breakfast, The Wilson House Restaurant and Inn.

So it isn't just the people of the city of Niagara Falls who get shafted by State Parks. It's all of Niagara County, and not a single one of our local politicians is willing to do anything about it.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Nov 05, 2013