NIAGARA FALLS – Niagara Falls State Park will see an additional $15 million in renovations through the end of 2017, on top of the previously announced $25 million in work, state parks officials said Wednesday.
Some of the planned improvements include:
• Upgrades to Terrapin Point, which offers a close view of the Horseshoe Falls, with three new overlooks, new railings and paving stones.
• The construction of a new Parks Police station near the Gorge Discovery Center; the existing police building will be used by the Cave of the Winds attraction.
• Moving the Nikola Tesla monument from its spot on Goat Island to Stedman’s Bluff at the northern tip of the island.
While some work has been completed, including some work at Prospect Point, the Cave of the Winds, Luna Island and Three Sisters Islands, there is much more work to be done on Goat Island in the coming years, Parks Western Regional Director Mark W. Thomas said.
Woven throughout designs for all of the construction – which started with work on the elevators to the Cave of the Winds, a project completed before the tourist season started last May – is a unified look to the park, standardizing and making more “aesthetically pleasing” things like paving stones, lamp posts and railings, Thomas said.
Overall, there will be less pavement in the park when the work is done.
A New York Times travel writer and a nonprofit agency critiqued the condition of the park in 2011, which led to an April 2012 announcement of a plan to “transform the landscape” of the park.
Currently, the Nikola Tesla monument is between the main Goat Island parking lot and the Cave of the Winds, with its back facing the lot.
A berm will be built on an existing flat area of Stedman’s Bluff. The Tesla statue will be relocated behind the berm, with views of both the American and Bridal Veil falls.
“What we want to create is an isolated area here at Stedman’s Bluff, so when you’re out there, you’ve got plantings behind you; you can really enjoy this and not feel like you’ve got crowds and noise behind you,” Thomas said.
Terrapin Point will be made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, with a new trail with the appropriate grade.
In the plaza near the Cave of the Winds will be a new archway serving as a gateway to Stedman’s Bluff.
The existing Pavilion Building will be renovated, with additional restrooms, which are needed in the area, especially on weekends and holidays in the summer. Parks officials have been bringing in portable toilets to accommodate visitors, Thomas said.
The new police station will be built between an unused area between the Rainbow Bridge and the Gorge Discovery Center. It will roughly double the space for the police agency.
Also, there will be changes to trolley routes in the park, with some new stops created.
Some of the projects currently under construction are improvements to an area known as the Lower Gorge Trails, located between Prospect Point and the bridges to Goat Island. Other projects include the north shore trail on Goat Island and the bridge to Luna Island, which is getting a new veneer, decking and railings.
Funding for the $15 million in renovations will come from the state’s New York Works program.
The initial $25 million in construction is being paid for through Niagara River Greenway funding, with an upfront payment now and annual payments over the next two decades.
About 8.76 million people visited the cataracts, the nation’s oldest state park, this year – an increase from the 8.69 million who visited last year. It continues the trend of increased attendance at the park every year since 2006.