USA Niagara Development Corp. (USAN), in partnership with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the New York Power Authority, on Friday issued a request for proposals for a qualified master licensee to establish, operate and maintain a program of outdoor recreation activities and associated capital/real estate facilities within four state parks and on New York state-owned open space and land along roughly 11 miles of waterfront on the upper and lower Niagara River in Niagara Falls.
The RFP is a key tourism element of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Buffalo Billion economic development initiative. Proposals are due to USAN by 2 p.m. Sept. 15.
The intent of the effort is to expand the amount and types of activities and experiences available to tourists and local residents in order to assist in growing visitorship and extending stays in the City of Niagara Falls, as well as to enhance the quality of life in the region.
"By partnering with an established operator to provide a program of outdoor recreation activities and associated facilities, we are taking a major step forward in advancing Gov. Cuomo's plan to capture Niagara Falls' tourism opportunities," USAN President Christopher J. Schoepflin said. "While Niagara Falls attracts more visitors than most national parks, a smaller percentage of our attendance involves overnight stays. This RFP is seeking a major private investment to help better facilitate and promote hiking, biking, climbing, fishing - and a host of other activities along the upper and lower Niagara River - all intended to not only increase stay and spend and realize its associated economic benefits, but also give the visitor the most authentic experience at Niagara."
It is anticipated that expanded comprehensive program of outdoor recreation activities may involve real estate or capital facilities that could include, but would not be limited to: Various scales of "outfitting"/gear rental facilities; bicycle rental facilities; facilitated fishing, birding, trekking guide services; potential re-definition of the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center as a unique outfitting, interpretation, food/beverage, and gateway facility to allow visitors to learn about and prepare for activities in the gorge; fixed rappelling facilities, particularly in the vicinity of the former foundation wall of the Schoellkopf Power Station near the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center; capital facilities associated with one or more Niagara Gorge canopy/zipline tour routes, provided they are sensitively incorporated into/camouflaged by the landscape; trail maintenance/gear rental for cross-country skiing or other winter sports; selective locations for prescribed seasonal tent cabin/yurt camping areas; and one or more "grand lodge" or heritage inn facilities (either newly built or through retrofitting underutilized park buildings), which could serve both as centralized nodes for the provision of outdoor recreation services, gear rental and food/beverage, as well as to provide limited overnight lodging facilities (provided such lodge/inn facilities are not sited at Niagara Falls State Park).
"The Power Authority is working hand-in-hand with our state partners to help to further transform Niagara Falls into the tourist destination on everyone's list, including more active visitors," said Gil Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. "Gov. Cuomo's unprecedented investment in the region demonstrates his commitment to ensuring that more New Yorkers and visitors enjoy the Niagara area today and into the future."
"We look forward to working with our partners to help realize Gov. Cuomo's vision to offer new and exciting experiences for Niagara Falls visitors," said Mark Thomas, NYS Parks western district director.
Respondents must present feasible concepts for the entire 11-mile project area, although components of a program may be phased in over time. Wherever required, components of a selected program would undergo all necessary public reviews. It is anticipated that, upon the selection of a preferred team, State Parks and USAN would enter into a letter of intent with the team to establish parameters for required design/feasibility studies, due diligence work, and all environmental reviews for components of the program, ultimately leading to the issuance of a concession license, along with any other state agency agreements/approvals necessary to implement components of the recreation program.
A formal, non-mandatory tour of areas/facilities that are the subject of this solicitation will be conducted at 11 a.m. July 27. Attendees must schedule their participation by contacting USAN at 716-284-2556 before close of business on the July 21. Additional tours may be scheduled as needed.
A non-mandatory pre-proposal information meeting will be held at 2 p.m. Aug. 3 at The Conference Center Niagara Falls, 101 Old Falls St. Attendees must RSVP to USAN at 716-284-2556 to attend the pre-proposal meeting.