by Bob Baxter, NHP Conservation Chair
The Niagara Heritage Partnership extends special recognition and a thank you to all those from Lewiston, Youngstown, and the surrounding countryside, all of those from the "north towns," from below the ridge, who have made the decision to support the total removal of the gorge parkway and to restore the natural landscapes that is our heritage. Some of you have signed the NHP online petition to demonstrate that support - and we appreciate the fact that signing may not have been the easiest thing to do, requiring that you publicly and visibly show that support. It may have taken courage to go against what many of your friends, neighbors, and even other family members believe. You have demonstrated that you have the ability to think for yourself, which, especially these days, seems to be increasingly rare.
Your signature may not be the one that tips the balance in favor of removal. All of our signatures together, along with everything else we have done, may not be enough to bend the future in the direction we believe it should go. But when the future does arrive, and that is one thing we can be reasonably sure will happen, it will look back to this time and find your name among those who stood for the right thing, the natural world, the trees and wildflowers, the birds, the moments of peace and serenity that will find you while you walk along a path through a meadow of butterflies. Maybe that last sentence is a little too sloppily romantic for you, a little too "tree hugger," but remember that's the way life is sometimes, and that Ed Begley Jr. also signed that same petition for total parkway removal as you, as did David Suzuki, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. In another time, Frederick Law Olmsted would have signed.
And Rachel Carson, John Muir, St. Francis of Assisi, Henry David Thoreau, and you can probably think of others - so you are among the angels. You are standing up with them. In the 15 years of us advocating for removal some of those who signed have passed away, and you are also standing in for them.
On the other side, the opposition, the PPP we can call them (Parkway Preservation People), are those who never met an opportunity for enlightenment they couldn't ignore. They keep repeating the same tired arguments over and over and over. Every time we slam them down with facts and reasoning they fall quiet for a while then, like punch drunken fighters, shake their heads and wade back in again with the same arguments. You'd probably recognize their names and their silly arguments. They've been so far out of it that we've had some good laughs and would have laughed harder if the issue were less serious. Some of the responses we've made are posted at www.niagaraheritage.org, if you're in need of a smile. While you are there, convince a friend to sign the petition.
One of the things the PPP have been pretty good at is twisting words to their own purposes.
Consider the "Parkway Preservation Committee." The idea of "preservation" is usually reserved for saving something valuable. Save the redwoods! Save the whales! Save the old growth forests! Preserve that old house that predates the Civil War! What does the PPP give us? Save that "road"? Save remaining traces of the Oregon Trail, yes. Save parts of Route 66, even. But preserve the gorge parkway? Get real. Okay, a compromise - we'll go along with that: in which landfill would they like it to be preserved?
The latest is Legislator Soluri's "motto," which is actually quite brilliant: "Reject extremism and embrace reason." It does everything a good piece of propaganda is supposed to do. It reduces a complex issue to a bumper sticker. It calls the opposing side an undesirable name. It claims for itself the desirable, "reasonable" position. What it implies isn't true, of course, but that doesn't matter at all.
Truth is the first casualty. To the PPP the senseless and cowardly "parkway removal to Findlay" is presented as a "compromise." The PPP have some in Niagara Falls believing it. If reason walked up and knocked on Legislator Soluri's door he'd call the cops.
So if you can block out the chanting of the motto long enough, the Niagara Heritage Partnership recommends endorsement of only the sixth option, the one for total removal of the gorge parkway. You can do this to participate in this latest phase of the gorge scoping process by emailing your comments to [email protected] or sending them by regular mail to Niagara Gorge Corridor Project, c/o Parsons, 40 La Riviere Drive, Suite 350, Buffalo, NY, 14202. This must be done by July 8 - and thank you again for your support.