By Mark Scheer
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — For at least the next month, crews will be removing loose rocks, boulders and other items from the Niagara Gorge near the Gorge Discovery Center in Niagara Falls State Park.
A release issued Monday by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation characterized the rock-scaling project as a process regularly done in the gorge to “protect those using the trails for recreational purposes” from being hit by falling debris.
Crews equipped with safety harnesses will be entering the gorge to remove loose materials that could pose hazards. The process is expected to take between four and six weeks to complete.
The latest round of rock-scaling is being financed by the Maid of the Mist Corp., although a company spokesman said it is not tied to plans currently under way to build a new boat storage facility on American side for the firm. The work was later described as being part of the memorandum of understanding which was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and James Glynn, the owner of the Maid of the Mist in December.
Cuomo and Glynn entered into an agreement to allow the company to store its fleet at the Schoellkopf Power Station site. That deal was struck in response to an earlier decision by the Niagara Parks Commission in Canada which agreed to provide exclusive rights for the use of existing boat-docking facilities in Canada to a new tour company, Hornblower Cruises of California. Hornblower’s contract takes effect in 2014.
As part of the Maid’s agreement with the state, the company has agreed to invest $32 million into the NYPA-owned Schoellkopf site. The project calls for the development of new storage buildings and a new boat elevator as well as elements designed to enhance access to existing hiking trails in the gorge.
In the release issued on Monday, state parks acknowledged that the latest round of rock-scaling work is being done in conjunction with the Maid. State parks officials said the appropriate permits for the rock-scaling work have been issued by state parks and the New York Power Authority.
State parks spokesperson Angela Berti referred questions about the Maid’s involvement to a spokesman for Glynn.