GUEST VIEW: State distorting Olmsted’s vision for Niagara Reservation | Opinion

Delaware North is currently lobbying Albany to try to renew the concession license for Niagara Falls State Park. The license expires this year. As a filmmaker, I first encountered this suspicious contract when I learned that all movies shot in the national park had to pay Top of the Falls restaurant for restoration. It is an unfair monopoly that excludes local restaurants from catering from any production that chooses the park as their location.

When Top of the Falls was built in 1990, New York State Senator Daniel Moynihan publicly argued that the restaurant’s existence had permanently disfigured the Olmsted Preserve and endangered historic status. of the park. According to Paul Gromosiak, Niagara Falls historian and Olmsted expert, it’s true.

Gromosiak is perhaps the only Niagarian to have a rock engraved and dedicated to him in Niagara Falls State Park. Two days after Paul’s death, parks spokesperson Angela Berti publicly announced her expertise, saying: “No one cared about the city and the park anymore, and knew more about it. [Buffalo News, 8/6/2018]

Given that the Niagara Preserve may have become unrecognizable in 1990, it stands to reason that the subsequent commercialization and installation of artificial jokes over the past 31 years has only further disfigured Olmsted’s original design. . Obviously, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation favored profit over natural history. In his final testimony, available on YouTube, Gromosiak pokes fun at “Certain historical preservations. They are hypocrites.

New York State has always claimed that the Niagara Preserve and Niagara Falls State Park are the same entity. It cannot be true. In fact, the two are poles apart. Explains Gromosiak, “A park is defined as land for recreation. A reserve is land set aside for a specific purpose, in this case for the preservation of the natural state.

State Assembly Member Thomas V. Welch, who co-created the Niagara Reservation alongside Frederick Law Olmsted, delivered a speech to the State Assembly on March 2, 1883. In his remarks Own words, Welch states “Nothing like a park, in the ordinary acceptance of the word, is contemplated or desired in Niagara.” Nature offers there a spectacle of more beauty and grandeur than all the artificial parks in the world put together, and any attempt to improve it by ornamentation must be considered a sacrilege.

The Niagara Reservation Act, which was passed in 1883 and can be found in the laws of the State of New York (106th Session), clearly states that it is “AN ACT permitting selection, the location and appropriation of certain lands in the village of Niagara Falls for a state reserve and to preserve the landscape of Niagara Falls. When asked if Niagara Falls State Park illegally occupies the Niagara Preserve, Gromosiak replied, “Yes… They promised in this deed that they would keep this natural land forever; and does not authorize any artificial introduction on the ground. He goes on to say that calling it a park “allows lodges and restaurants … makes it legal.”

A review of the 2013 park construction plans by Empire State Development reveals that New York State is still using Olmsted’s guidelines on paper, but not in reality. The Niagara Reservation Act, which is still legally valid, has been violated by the state of New York. Parking lots, tolls and restaurants would have made Olmsted roll into his grave. Without the name of Olmsted, the park would not be listed on the National Historic Register and thus lose all associated benefits. This license of unfair (and illegal) concessions forces our local restaurants to compete with New York State, their partners and their endless resources.

This is a binary problem: either the Niagara reserve designed by Olmsted still exists, and the state must follow the specific natural guidelines set out by the famous architect; or Niagara Falls State Park has completely disfigured the reserve beyond recognition.

As the latter is true, we as a community should urge our elected officials to start asking the federal government to take the park from the state and preserve it as a national park. As Theodore Roosevelt told Congress in 1905, “Nothing should be allowed to interfere with the preservation of Niagara Falls in all its beauty and majesty. If the state cannot see this then it is to be hoped that it is willing to hand it over to the national government, who should in such a case shoulder the burden and responsibility of keeping Niagara Falls unharmed just as it does. should gladly take a similar burden and responsibility for Yosemite National Park. “

The federal government is currently involved in a lawsuit with Delaware North after the concession company was denied a renewal of a similar license in Yosemite (another Olmsted park). Delaware North owner, Buffalo billionaire Jeremy Jacobs, lives on an Olmsted estate and has received awards from the National Association for Olmsted Parks; who remained silent on the concession permit.

Ken Cosentino is a filmmaker, environmental activist and passionate supporter of Niagara Falls.

About Michael B. Billingsley

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