Visitors will find a brand-new entryway at the oldest state park in America.
On Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul joined New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid and Western District Director Mark Mistretta, Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, and Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino in officially opening a $6.2 million welcome plaza at Niagara Falls State Park.
Located in front of the Orin Lehman Visitor Center in Prospect Park, this project is the final piece of a nearly $70 million revitalization of the landscape. Launched in 2011, the Niagara Falls State Park renovation plan was a multiyear commitment to renew the area in a manner that better reflects noted park designer Frederick Law Olmsted's vision for the green spaces. The plan renovated the park's major viewing areas, including Luna Island, Prospect Point, Lower Grove, Three Sisters Islands, North Shoreline Trail, Luna Bridge and Terrapin Point with new pedestrian walkways, enhanced landscaping, new benches, light posts and railings.
An interactive Cave of the Winds pavilion, which highlights the natural and cultural history of Niagara Falls, opened in 2017.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined with other elected leaders in offering praise for the Prospect Street project, which connects the circa-1885 park with the city.
"Niagara Falls is one of most awe-inspiring destinations in this country and a key part of New York's environmental identity," he said. "The completion of this revitalization plan strengthens this legacy while enhancing the region's tourism industry, and I encourage all to discover this amazing park in New York state."
The completion of the $6.2 million project creates a more seamless connection between the park and the Niagara Falls business district, which will help visitors better orient with the offerings both inside and outside of the park; improves pedestrian and vehicular safety and helps reduce traffic congestion through the redesign of the motor coach arrival area; and enhances the patron experience through general landscaping upgrades, clearer wayfinding signage, uniform park furnishings, enhanced lighting and improved pedestrian circulation.
Kulleseid said, "Niagara Falls State Park is a gem in our state park system. Those visiting from around the world deserve a first-class experience and, with the completion of this project, they will get just that. The project competes a vital tie to the City of Niagara Falls, which plays host to the park. With the new Cataract Commons and Old Falls Street, downtown Niagara Falls is becoming an exciting piece of the robust tourism industry the city is cultivating."
Morinello said, "The completion of the welcome plaza effectively creates a park within the city. For too long, the state park appeared to be a separate entity creating a visual barrier between the City of Niagara Falls and the state park. Thank you to Gov. Cuomo and the New York State Parks Department for your vision and completion of this important piece of the Niagara Falls tourist experience."
Restaino said, "The City of Niagara Falls has long treasured the beauty of the Niagara Falls State Park. With the investment over the last several years, our state partners have truly elevated the visitor experience. The completion of the welcome plaza at Prospect Point is the capstone of this investment and helps add to the exciting development in our downtown tourism district."
New York State Sen. Robert Ortt said, "The renovations completed at the Niagara Falls State Park welcome plaza will help accentuate and improve on the incredible wonder of the world we are fortunate enough to have located in our backyard. This project will also help strengthen the connection between our state park and the business community surrounding it.
“You can only make a first impression once, and this investment into the park's welcome plaza will provide guests from all over the world with a positive experience that will stay with them for a lifetime."
Destination Niagara USA President and CEO John Percy said, "I couldn't be more pleased with the complete transformation of the welcome plaza at Niagara Falls State Park. Not only is it a more open and attractive space, it has also created a much stronger connection to the City of Niagara Falls. Visitors can now clearly see and more easily access all that we have to offer outside of the park."
Niagara Falls State Park attracts more than 9 million visitors annually.
Hochul said, “Niagara Falls is an enduring reminder of strength and power. We need to have that right now. We've been through a lot. Our country's been through a lot. And as we emerge from this pandemic, and enter the post-pandemic world, and find ways to build back better, come here for inspiration.
“I'm encouraging every New Yorker to make the trip here. Take that staycation. You don't need to get on a plane to have a great, great, fantastic vacation in your own backyard. Come see how magnificent this is – and if you've not been here in the last three to five years, you won't recognize this place. And I mean that as someone who scoured every corner of this great park. Come visit.
“But also look at Niagara Falls. Look – it's been here through the ages, resilient, strong, a source of power. That's in our DNA as New Yorkers, as the stewards of this magnificent natural wonder that’s spoken about in awe around the world. Don't forget that. Don't forget that, as we chart our comeback and make our state stronger and more powerful than ever before.”
She added, “I think this is gorgeous. I love everything that you've done here. It is just a fitting tribute to something that's been long overdue, and we finally were able to accomplish it under Gov. Cuomo and our administration, and I thank everyone involved.”
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul addresses the media.
Elected and tourism leaders cut the ribbon.