Governor Cuomo Announces More Than $17 Million In Funding To Restore And Enhance Historic Niagara Falls State Park
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced more than $17 million in state funding for improvements to restore and enhance the natural beauty of historic Niagara Falls State Park. The improvements are part of the Governor’s $70 million commitment to restore the park’s natural landscape, enhance its recreational facilities and attract thousands of new visitors to the region each year. Governor Cuomo also announced that, after a month-long competition and review, “Niagara Scenic Parkway” has been selected as the new name for the former Robert Moses Parkway, which will soon grace the more than fifteen miles of parkway between the Grand Island Bridge and the Town of Porter.
“Niagara Falls State Park is truly one of the crown jewels of New York, offering unparalleled natural beauty and some of the best outdoor recreation opportunities in the nation,” Governor Cuomo said. “This investment builds the good progress we have made to transform Western New York from the ground up – revitalising our state parks and historic sites, boosting tourism and creating thousands of well-paying jobs. Today we are recapturing the bold vision and determination that created the most ambitious parks system in the nation, and preserving and enhancing our natural treasures for generations to come.”
The Niagara Falls State Park revitalisation plan is a multi-year commitment to transform the nation’s oldest state park and better reflect noted park designer Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision for the landscape. The plan has renewed the park’s major viewing areas including Luna Island, Prospect Point, Three Sisters Islands with new pedestrian walkways, enhanced landscaping, new benches, light posts and railings.
Key improvements moving forward this year include:
Terrapin Point Restoration: Set to open by the July 4th weekend, Terrapin Point which overlooks the Horseshoe Falls is one of the most popular sites in the park. The $4.4 investment restoration includes universally accessible pathways, several new overlooks throughout the point, new railings, pavers, lighting, benches and new landscaping with both mowed areas and meadow grasses. The work is consistent with Olmsted’s principles and will closely resemble other areas of the park that have already been restored.
Cave of the Winds Pedestrian Plaza and Stedman’s Bluff: A $5.6 million project to renew the Cave of the Winds Pedestrian Plaza and Stedman’s Bluff will be completed this summer. The Cave of the Winds Pedestrian Plaza includes improved dining areas, concessions and new restroom facilities. Stedman’s Bluff overlooking Bridal and American Falls will be enhanced with new pavers, new railings, and a raised planting area featuring boulders that can be used for sitting. Stedman’s Bluff will also be the new home of the statute to inventor Nikolai Tesla. Once repositioned at Stedman’s Bluff the statute will become more accessible for all visitors with seating along the base perfect for photographs and reflection. Tesla designed the first alternating-current hydroelectric power plant in Niagara Falls in 1895.
Cave of the Winds Experience Building: Construction will begin this month on a $7 million Cave of the Winds facility that will become a year-round tourism centrepiece of the park. Currently, visitors must wait in long lines exposed to the elements to enjoy the Cave of the Winds attraction. When complete, the attraction will allow visitors to enjoy a 30-minute interactive program featuring the natural and cultural history of Niagara Falls, before donning the customary rain poncho and sandals for the 175-foot Cave of the Winds elevator trip down to the decks. When the decks close for the season, the facility will remain open and highlight the park in winter, providing a new reason for tourists to visit Niagara Falls during the off-season. The new Cave of the Winds attraction is expected to open in late 2017.
To complement these changes, Niagara Falls State Park is now partnering with Taste NY to feature locally-made products throughout the park. Top of the Falls Restaurant, operated by Delaware North Parks and Resorts, is proudly offering food and beverages from more than a dozen New York producers, many of them from Western New York. Diners can identify those menu items by the Taste NY logo. Park visitors can also enjoy a wide selection of local food and souvenir items in the Cave of the Winds gift shop and at snack bars throughout the park. Find a list of New York producers featured at Niagara Falls State Park here.
This partnership builds on Governor Cuomo’s commitment to grow the Taste NY initiative, which he first launched in 2013 to strengthen the state’s growing food and beverage industries. New York products are now available at nearly four-dozen locations across the state, and featured at more than 46 events annually. In 2015, Taste NY participants tripled their gross annual revenue from the previous year and they are on track to double their gross sales this year.
New York State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, “America’s oldest state park is being renewed with a lush new landscape and quality facilities that will help ensure visitors a memorable and enjoyable trip to the Falls. I’m grateful for the Governor’s leadership in preserving Niagara Falls State Park as an international destination and cornerstone of the region’s tourism economy.”
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “New York’s incredible agricultural producers make some of the best food and beverages in the world, and through this partnership they will have the opportunity to share them with park visitors from all over the globe. Governor Cuomo’s unprecedented commitment to this initiative and to the agricultural industry has allowed hundreds of New York businesses to grow, which not only benefits their bottom line, but also the economy and consumers.”
Michael Barnes, General Manager of Delaware North Companies, said, “Partnering with the New York State businesses is a perfect way to showcase the fresh and delicious food and beverage products NY has to offer, especially to the millions of guests that visit Niagara Falls State Park.”
Senator Robert Ortt said, “This is a big day for Niagara Falls because we are seeing major projects move forward that will protect and preserve this iconic park for years to come. Niagara Falls is not only one of the world’s most beautiful destinations, but it is also a major driver of tourism, job creation and economic development. I applaud Governor Cuomo for his continued commitment to enhancing our state parks and protecting the natural environment for all New Yorkers.”
Assemblyman John Ceretto said, “Niagara Falls is one of the world’s great natural wonders and I am grateful to have been a part of this commitment to protecting and preserving our historic state park. Through this $17 million investment, as part of a larger $70 million multi-year commitment, we will see Niagara Falls State Park restored to its original grandeur. I thank the governor and look forward to ensuring Niagara Falls continues to serve as an economic engine for Western New York – creating jobs and driving tourism for years to come.”
Paul Dyster, Mayor of Niagara Falls, said, “Niagara Falls is not only the nation’s oldest state park, but it is also one of New York’s most important conservation legacies. Throughout his tenure in office, Governor Cuomo has made Niagara Falls a top priority. He has shown a deep dedication to protecting New York’s natural environment and promoting stewardship in the region – and this investment is no exception. This funding will ensure this region remains a top destination for residents, visitors and tourists alike for generations to come.”
Niagara Scenic Parkway
Governor Cuomo also announced “Niagara Scenic Parkway” has been selected and will soon grace the more than fifteen miles of parkway located in Niagara County that begins at the Grand Island Bridge and ultimately ends in the Town of Porter. The contest to rename the parkway was launched when the Governor committed $42 million to a project to transform an underutilised section of Robert Moses Parkway North in Niagara Falls into open space, scenic overlooks and recreational trails to make the waterfront more accessible to residents, tourists and visitors.
More than 450 online nominations were received during a five week contest that commenced on March 22 and concluded on April 30. A panel comprised of state representatives and members of the local community convened, reviewed and discussed the nominations before unanimously selecting Niagara Scenic Parkway to replace what is now known as Robert Moses Parkway. Submissions of proposed names for the planned reconfigured roadway covered a broad range of interests and ideas, from those based on the breathtaking geography and Native American history of the region, to tributes for prominent New Yorkers and historical figures including artists, inventors, and advocates, to sports legends, celebrities, community leaders and more.
Submissions were reviewed by a seven-member panel comprised of Chair and State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey, Senator Robert Ortt, Assemblyman John Ceretto, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, NYPA President and Chief Executive Officer Gil Quiniones, Department of Transportation Commissioner Matt Driscoll, and Niagara Parks Regional Commission Chair Cindy Abbott Letro. The panel considered several criteria, including relevance of the setting, pulse of the community, tourism promotion and history. The selection, Niagara Scenic Parkway, was frequently nominated by the community during the contest period and delivered on several meaningful criteria necessary for selection.
The new name will apply to both the south segment of the parkway beginning at the Grand Island Bridge and traveling 3.7 miles to John Daly Boulevard, and the north segment that starts at Findlay Drive in Niagara Falls and continuing 11.7 miles to the Town of Porter.
The park improvements reflect Governor Cuomo’s commitment to revitalising the state park system and expanding access to outdoor recreation. The Governor’s NY Parks 2020 program is a multi-year commitment to leverage $900 million in private and public funding for State Parks from 2011 to 2020. The Governor’s 2016-17 Executive Budget allocates $90 million toward this initiative. In addition, this year the Governor announced the Connect Kids to Parks program, which provides free day-use park entry to fourth-grade students and their families, and creates a new transportation grant program to help students from underserved schools visit state parks and historic sites.