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Niagara River Greenway Vision and Project Proposals
Prepared for the Niagara River Greenway Commission
Niagara River Greenway Planning Process
July 2006 Page 2, Page 3
“Achieving” Niagara Falls’ Greenway Vision: Introduction
Remarks by Mayor Vincenzo V. Anello to the Local Government Advisory Committee of the NIAGARA RIVER GREENWAY COMMISSION
Monday July 17, 2006
The City of Niagara Falls concurs with the New York State Legislative findings and intent with regards to the establishment of the Niagara River Greenway, including its definition of “greenway” to mean “a linear system of state and local parks and conservation areas linked by a network of multi use trails” and its purpose to redefine the Niagara riverfront through increasing landside access to the river; creating complementary access to the greenway from the river; augmenting economic revitalization efforts, and celebrating the region's heritage.
While the City and the County currently await designation of the Niagara River corridor by the US Congress as a National Heritage Area, there can be no doubt that the corridor hasplayed a significant role in the history of the Niagara Frontier and of the United States and Canada. Therefore, the Niagara River communities in particular should take all necessary steps now that will continue to define the western New York experience into the twenty-first century as one of the world’s preeminent places of nature. Niagara Falls is a National Natural Landmark under state stewardship for more than a century that draws more than fourteen million visitors from throughout the world to the region each year. For just as long, if not longer, there have been those who have expressed a vision for the Niagara River corridor, that of a necklace of open space and conservation areas spread along the river. With many areas no longer being used for heavy industry, it is now time to complete that vision.
The Niagara River corridor is of unique environmental, cultural, and economic importance to New York. It is a shared connection of communities and ecologies from Lake Eire to Lake Ontario. Along the corridor, many “traditional” parks have been established including eleven state parks and fourteen local parks. New York State's only National Scenic Byway, the Seaway Trail, runs through the entire corridor. Greenway Planning is our opportunity to advance a non-traditional concept of park that transcends survey boundaries to encompass whole municipalities as part of a broader public strategy for social, economic, as well as, environmental regeneration of our Buffalo-Niagara region. Therefore, in areas that are not
contiguous with the waterfront, programmatic linkages should be used by the Greenway
Commission to establish consistency with its legislative purposes and intent.
Niagara Falls and Buffalo while at the heart of the river corridor, much of their waterfront has in the past been dedicated to industrial uses. Therefore, as these uses continue to wane, it is Niagara Falls and Buffalo in particular that should be at the nexus of any regional effort to redefine the Niagara River corridor and revitalize the regional economy.
Therefore, the City of Niagara Falls, the first municipality to propose a system of multi-jurisdictional riverfront recreational trails (1992), conduct a regional visioning exercise on the future of Niagara Falls and the region (1997), and propose a regional program of waterfront heritage interpretive venues or tourist “Discovery Centers” (2002), is hereby prepared to support any Greenway Commission plan that focuses geographically on the Niagara River and its adjacent tributaries, and specifically includes “identified” upland natural, open space, recreational, and scenic resources combined with a policy toward greenway land-management
that is; in the first instance, designed to preserve and add to these resources, beginning with those resources that are of the highest and best ecological and/or recreational value regionally, and; in the second instance is designed to repair damage done to the land by former industrial or commercial waterfront uses.
After decades of technical planning and public discussion, Niagara Falls is on a firm foundation for immediate action. We already know what needs to be done and we are doing it.
The Niagara River Greenway Commission Plan should base its efforts on the best ideas from dozens of different plans, reports, studies and proposals for Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and the Niagara River waterfront and craft an aggressive strategy to help Niagara Falls assume more central role in the economic resurgence of the entire region. City projects put forth in our draft LWRP or in our award-winning Achieving Niagara Falls’ Future: Waterfront Agenda (on which most of this report is based), or the Niagara Falls Strategic Master Plan are feasible, have citizen support and, taken together, will have transformative impact for the region generally, but most noticeably in the City of Niagara Falls.
These projects deserve to be developed and implemented. The strategy that connects these projects is straightforward and powerful. It aims to achieve the development of economy,environment, and community together and it is driven by three principles:
❑ First, re-connect Niagara Falls – its downtown and neighborhoods alike – with the
Niagara River waterfront.
❑ Second, repair and improve both the urban and natural environments for the
benefit of residents and visitors alike.
❑ Third, develop the means to tell the compelling stories of the city and region to
build the visitor industry and create meaning for those who live here.
These principles provide a strategic framework that organizes the City of Niagara Falls waterfront projects. The principles also offer a means to evaluate and prioritize all of the projects and proposals that may follow, and therefore, should serve to guide continuing planning being carried out on behalf of all WNY communities by the Greenway Commission.
Two major projects already have a broad base of public and private support. One is to complete the installation of the waterfront trail system from city line to city line. The other is to mitigate the negative impact of the Robert Moses Parkway on waterfront access, urban environment, and regional image. Completing the trail and mitigating the parkway will be important steps toward making visible the fact that Niagara is a great place to live, work, and visit.
1. Bike and pedestrian trail system
Direct access by pedestrians to the Niagara River waterfront is the foundation of this strategy. Therefore, as soon as possible, implement existing plans for a pedestrian and bike way to run continuously along the entire length of the Niagara Falls waterfront. It is important to make sure that the path is well connected to adjacent neighborhoods and the city street pattern for easy local access.
2. Naturalize Niagara River shoreline and gorge
The waterfront should be natural and beautiful. Therefore, areas adjacent to the river, including the rim of the gorge, the Reservation, and the upper river stream bank, should be naturalized as much as possible through removal of paved surfaces and new plantings of trees and native plants. This will improve the environment and enhance the quality of views. It is acceptable to mow where needed for picnickers and other users, but the use of natural plants will cut maintenance costs and add to the enjoyment of users. Naturalizing the gorge rim will also help strengthen the buffer between city and fragile gorge ecosystems.