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JULY 08 - JULY 16, 2014

From Police Barracks to Rest Rooms and More Pavement Things are Getting Worse at Niagara's State Parks

By Frank Parlato

July 08, 2014

Business signage directs tourists in the ‘Olmsted’ park as they walk amid construction of more business.

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822 –1903) designed several famous parks such as Central Park, Yosemite and the Niagara Falls State Park.

He is popular enough with environmentalist and eco-tourists that using his name is an attraction and a way to sell a project to the public.

Whenever New York State Parks uses his name, however, they are generally selling anti-Olmsted ideas.

A truck is loaded with a freshly cut, century-old Black Walnut tree that once graced Goat Island, cut to make way for more pavement.

In fact State Parks and Albany's clique of engineering and design insiders have violated all of Olmsted's "cardinal" points in his design of the Niagara Falls State Park.

Olmsted's plan was for the park to be all green, free of commercialism, and manmade embellishments like statuary, gardens and paved trails.

"It may be safely assumed," Olmsted wrote, "that no improvement that the state can make will increase the astonishing qualities of Niagara."

Restaurants and stores were forbidden.

He wrote, "If (the park) were a commercial undertaking into which the state was entering, in competition with the people of the village of Niagara, it cannot be questioned that the restaurant could be made profitable."

Q: What the hell is this doing in the park? A: It’s the new restrooms on Goat Island.

Converting green into parking lots, a dozen restaurants and stores, adding statues and manmade gardens, and ever-widening paved areas for walking, and vending, the state succeeded in violating Olmsted's design.

A few years back, the State Park cleared mature trees near the brink of the falls to create a better view for the Top of the Falls restaurant.

Years ago, they cut down about 300 mature trees for paid parking lots.

Recently, 52 mature trees were cut for new police barracks.

A few days ago, on Goat Island, more old trees were cut for paving.

We witnessed the remains of one mature black walnut tree on the back of a contractor's truck in the Goat Island parking lot to be carried off the land where it lived for a century.

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed taking $40 million of taxpayers' money to "improve" the Niagara Falls State Park, he may not have realized that, in order to blow through that much, you have to cut down many trees.

The only way you can spend that much is to go anti-Olmsted and build wider roads, wider paths, with expensive granite pavers, new restrooms, new offices, new police barracks.

Anything to get through money - with profits going to Albany-connected engineers, landscape architects and designers.

At Three Sisters Islands various expensive pavers were installed that are oddly inharmonious.

Presently, they are "improving the parking lot in the state park by making "islands." It is just another way to spend money.

As for pavement, the new "improved" pathways on Three Sisters Island took a natural setting - about the last remaining Olmsted look in the park - to a mock Disney look, without Disney's sense of design. Today there is a meld of expensive pavers bought from Albany-connected quarries. It was designed by an Albany landscape architect, the LA Group, with strong ties to parks' Albany upper echelon.

Indeed, a senior landscape architect for the Albany-based LA Group is Susan McCorkell. She is married to Stephan McCorkell, a senior parks landscape architect, in charge of managing the work at the park.

Together they have written, approved, and overseen specifications for expensive granite pavers that can be only purchased from a quarry with headquarters in Albany and must be installed in the park.

At Three Sisters Island, more than 100 trees were cut, as paths were widened. The natural look was lost and thousands of mismatched pavers were put in place. One wonders if they ran out of one type of expensive pavers and had to use another, since they don't match.

Presently, the parks are replacing perfectly adequate, architecturally attractive stone restrooms on Goat Island with unsightly new restrooms which will look like a cheap home in a tract housing subdivision.

No taste, no class, no concern about trees.

No Olmsted.

At the end of the day, we will be the only media to say this: but the Niagara Falls State Park would have been better off if Cuomo had not snatched $40 million from taxpayers and gave it to fools, bureaucrats and politically connected carpetbaggers.

We have heard it again and again, from the people, not the media or politicians - but from the people who have used the park for years: Look what they've done to the park. They've ruined the park. And so they have.





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Contact Info

©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina