NIAGARA FALLS – The Niagara River and its famous cataracts attract millions of visitors from throughout the world, but what do all of those tourists want to see and do after they have seen the falls?
Would their visit be more fun and more memorable if they could be given a chance to explore the region’s rich history and culture?
Those are among the questions to be asked during an ambitious survey proposed this week by Niagara University on behalf of the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Commission, a concept designated by Congress in 2008 to recognize the region’s natural and cultural legacies.
Deborah T. Curtis, director of the Hospitality Training & Research Center at NU, told commission members the survey would gather a wide range of data on Niagara Falls visitors and would include a focus group on services that are lacking or needed.
She said NU students would go to various locations to interview visitors, a postcard survey would be collected and analyzed, “and we will have focus groups to refine who is coming here and what gaps they are missing.”
Among the discussion topics for focus groups, Curtis said, would be the quality of services for visitors, the factors that influence their choice of leisure travel activities, and their views of cultural and historic resources.
In addition, the commission has established a group of committees to discuss various aspects of its mission.
Project Director Sara Capen asked the committees to submit reports at the commission’s next meeting, Dec. 12, at a time and place to be determined.
The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation also was scheduled to make a presentation at Wednesday’s meeting in the Doris W. Jones Family Resource Building, 3001 Ninth St., but that presentation was postponed until a future meeting.
The commission’s management plan says that it will “create an interpretive experience that tells the region’s story and encourages visitors to the Falls to explore the river corridor from LaSalle to Fort Niagara. High-quality landscape exhibits will be installed at locations along the corridor, presenting the heritage area’s primary interpretive themes and related storylines:
“Presentations will be world-class and will be incorporated into the fabric of the landscape and the community in a manner that enhances community character and the quality of life for residents.”
Paul Gromosiak, a retired school teacher, historian and author, offered his own plan to recreate an early Native American village in the underutilized Joseph Davis State Park in the Town of Lewiston.
Jeffrey D. Williams, vice chairman of the commission, reminded Gromosiak that the Town of Lewiston has a 20-year contract with the state Office of Parks to operate Joseph Davis State Park, “and they have a master plan for it.”
Williams suggested Gromosiak present his proposal to officials of the Town of Lewiston.
“You have a great idea; this is just the wrong venue for it,” he said.