Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-I-Lewiston, and State Sen. George Maziarz, R-C-Newfane, have arranged a meeting with New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey to discuss the condition of Niagara Falls State Park and what steps can be made to address this issue before the height of the summer tourism season. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, June 15.
Erik Kulleseid, director of the nonprofit Alliance for New York State Parks, and New York Times travel writer Barbara Ireland reported on the park's poor condition earlier this month, noting its worn-out paths, unsafe railings and failing sewer, water, drainage and electrical systems.
"Niagara Falls State Park is a major draw for tourists from around the world, bringing millions of dollars in revenue to the Niagara County region each year. By allowing the park to deteriorate in recent years, the state Parks Department has hurt the local economy and pushed tourists to the Canadian side of the falls," said Ceretto. "I am hopeful that the parks commissioner will take a personal interest in this issue and redirect state resources to make immediate improvements to the park. Her quick action can help us salvage this year's summer tourist season."
"For too long, our region's parks have been ignored by Albany. I am hopeful that the new parks commissioner will give us a more substantive response to what the department plans to do to address this issue," said Maziarz. "By visiting the region and touring the park, Commissioner Harvey will be able to make her own judgment regarding the condition of the park and have a better sense of what actions can be taken to help return the nation's oldest state park to its original grandeur."
Maziarz and Ceretto have also offered another solution; passing S.179 the "Niagara parks reinvestment act," would mandate that 50 percent of parking revenue generated at state parks in the county of Niagara be deposited in the Niagara parks reinvestment fund. This would allow Niagara Falls State Park to keep more of the funding it generates to be used on park improvements, safety and upkeep instead of sending it to Albany.
Maziarz and Ceretto also plan to discuss the relationship between the State Parks Department and the Town of Lewiston regarding Joseph Davis State Park with Harvey.
"The Town of Lewiston has expressed a desire to implement real improvements at Joseph Davis State Park and New York State Parks has routinely touted its local partnerships with municipalities as a strength, yet in this instance remains the sole impediment to the Town of Lewiston making significant upgrades to this valuable resource," Maziarz said. "This is a very important issue to the people of Lewiston, sick of downstate bureaucrats using red tape to complicate common-sense ideas best delivered locally."
Ceretto and Maziarz are hopeful that Harvey will respect the importance that State Parks hold in Niagara County and that a positive outcome can be achieved through collaboration between State Parks and the Legislature.
"If enacted, this legislation would provide Niagara Falls with the type of long-term funding it needs to maintain and enhance the historic park grounds and facilities, without the need to raise additional taxes or fees," Ceretto said. "This would be a victory for the region's economy and the park; and therefore the taxpayers of Niagara Falls and Niagara County."