By Justin Sondel firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — State parks officials unveiled renovations at several key areas in Niagara Falls State Park this year, but the planned work is just beginning.
Three Sisters Islands, Luna Island and Prospect Point with groundbreaking ceremonies this year. Those projects make up a small portion of the $40 million worth of upgrades planned for the park over the next four years, with the bulk of the work set to take place on Goat Island.
Mark Thomas, the western region director for the state’s office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said the state is working in phases to ensure that they will not significantly detract from the experience of visitors during construction.
“Even though we could do this in a lot faster period of time we will not, because we will keep it available to the public and we will stage it appropriately to do that,” Thomas said.
The projects are funded by a lump-sum payment of $25 million in Niagara River Greenway funds — part of the state’s 50-year relicensing agreement with the New York Power Authority settled in 2007 — and $15 million from the state’s NY Works program, Thomas said.
The planned improvements include:
• The repaving of several viewing areas and the renovation of trails along the upper rapids on both sides of the river.
• A reconfiguration of paths and the planting of “meadow grasses” at Terrapin Point. The changes will make the viewing area closest to the Horseshoe Falls handicapped accessible.
• The construction of a new state parks police office near the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center. The current police station, which is too small for the police force, will see a second floor added and the Cave of the Winds attraction will use the building.
• The statue of Nikola Tesla near the main parking lot on Goat Island would be moved and incorporated into renovations at Steadman’s Bluff, which overlooks the Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls.
Thomas said the renovations, which include the installation of stones along the edge of paths and changes to vehicle path designs, are meant not only to improve the look of the park but to control the flow of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic throughout the park.
Many of the parks grassy areas quickly deteriorate because of heavy foot traffic from the more than 8 million people that visit the park each year.
“We have a heck of a time keeping grass growing in these areas because people walk all over it and they destroy it,” Thomas said.Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257