New Automated Parking System on Goat Island Stiffs Senior Citizens

Whether exposing the crooked Glynn Maid of the Mist monopoly, criticizing the Niagara Falls State Park “Landscape Improvements” plan which ruined Three Sisters Islands, sounding the alarm on the Parks Police barracks which was slated for the edge of the scenic Niagara Gorge, rallying the public against the demolition of the 1864 Carriage Barn of DeVeaux Woods State Park, documenting how the south Robert Moses Parkway upgrade serves to further isolate the city from its waterfront and tourist assets, or even complaining about closed restrooms at Whirlpool and Devil’s Hole State Parks during the off-season, the Niagara Falls Reporter has served as the de facto watchdog of State Parks for over a decade.

It’s an important role.

Every year, eight million tourists access Niagara Falls State Park, most driving in from north and south on the Robert Moses Parkway. They park on one of nearly 1500 parking spaces in the park, eat at Top of the Falls restaurant (which resembles more a cafeteria than an actual restaurant) or one of several Delaware North food and ice creams stands scattered around the grounds. They might opt to ride Maid of the Mist or clamber out on the creaky wooden scaffolding of the Cave of the Winds, after which they are herded through one of two gift and souvenir shops. Then, in keeping with the 3-4 hour duration visit that is intrinsic to the park’s business plan (which this newspaper also brought to light) they pile back into the family minivan and leave without having entered or spent any money in the city of Niagara Falls, one of the poorest cities in the entire state.

This evening at the Niagara Falls Conference Center, New York State Parks and the NYS Dept. of Transportation will hold a “hearing” on what to do about decaying Olmsted-inspired bridges connecting to Goat Island in the park. These bridges were built over a century ago by craftsmen, and the carefully-constructed stoneworks should have lasted a thousand years. Instead, heavy construction equipment, like bulldozers and dump trucks, pounded their way over these bridges over the years en route to construction activities in the park, hastening the deterioration of these stately structures.

If tonight’s session follows the recent pattern, the public will wander among poster boards for an hour, listen to a canned presentation and then submit scribbled comments on little cards, which end up in the round filing cabinet after everyone goes home.

Fact is, we’re hearing more and more complaints about State Parks’ exploitative and corrupt practices in many different venues, from conversations in diners and bars, comments at public meetings and on social media like Facebook.

For example, Chris Zollman commented, ” …all the work that’s been done has taken away from the natural beauty of the place. I’ve walked out in there on the old pathways that hometown people made. Now you can’t with all the wire fences and crap!”

Bob Sitgreaves added, “(I am) originally from the Falls, but live in the Florida panhandle… since retiring from the Navy in 1988; Went home September of 2014 for the 50th Class reunion of NFHS 64… (with regards to) the fencing on Three Sister Islands, extremely disappointed about it being unable visit places I use to love going when I was a kid. Used to go to to a boulder overlooking the rapids on the middle Island and just sit there watching the water.”

Recently a gentleman who’s lived here for several years complained to us that his senior pass to park on Goat Island, where he and his wife used to enjoy the occasional stroll, is now virtually worthless, since the parking is handled by automatic ticket dispensers and pay stations which do not afford an opportunity to claim the senior discount. Previously, real human beings in booths handled the transaction, but State Parks has figured out how to screw even more locals out of a job and increase park revenues by means of the new, automated system.

According to the Niagara Falls State Park web site, “Driving to Niagara Falls State Park is a snap, with four parking lots available to easily accommodate park visitors. Each lot is connected to the park’s attractions and lookout points via the Niagara Scenic Trolley system — experiencing Niagara Falls does not require long walks…” Especially given that you might accidentally wander into the city and spend of your vacation dollars there instead of Albany’s tourist trap.

Since this is the off-season and the parking lot booths aren’t staffed, “Visitors may also have their ticket validated for these programs at the Main Visitor Center or Cave of the Winds Center during normal operating hours.”

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Parking lots are big business for Albany on Goat Island in the state-owned and operated Niagara Falls State Park. With approximately 1500 parking spaces at $10 a shot, and an average visit of 3-4 hours per vehicle, pretty soon we’re talking real money.

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Every vehicle that parks in the Niagara Falls State Park is one less that parks in the city, ensuring that tourist dollars are spent there instead of in the city of Niagara Falls, one of the poorest cities in the state.

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Mayor Paul Dyster, as Greenway Commission Vice-Chair, presided at the meeting during which the Niagara Falls State Park “Landscape Improvements” Plan was approved, leading to expanded parking lots, fenced-off areas and increased commercialism in the former nature preserve.

So if you’re retired and on a fixed income and want to get your senior discount, hoof it on over to the “Niagara Falls State Park Visitors Center”, as it’s been rebranded recently, during limited daylight hours to get your ticket validated.


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