The just-announced $15 million in renovations to Niagara Falls State Park over the next few years, on top of the $25 million in ongoing work, is proof that the nation’s oldest state park is finally getting the attention it deserves.
The visitor experience at the park has to be improved if the American side of the falls is ever going to be considered on the same level as its neighbor across the border.
The push for improvements to the park came after a New York Times travel writer and a nonprofit agency criticized the condition of the park in 2011. That led the next year to the announcement of an effort to “transform the landscape” of the park.
The initial $25 million in construction is being paid for through Niagara River Greenway funding. Some work has already been completed at Prospect Point, the Cave of the Winds, Luna Island and Three Sisters Islands. This new $15 million pot for renovations will come from the state’s New York Works program.
State Parks officials delivered this good news before Christmas and whatever the opinions – and there are plenty – as to how the money is being spent, no one can deny the positive impact of investing in a better tourist experience at our wonder of the world.
Planned improvements include upgrades to Terrapin Point, at the brink of the Horseshoe Falls, with three new overlooks, new railings and paving stones. And Terrapin Point will be made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including a new trail with the appropriate grade. Also on deck is construction of a new Parks Police station near the Gorge Discovery Center. Plans call for the Cave of the Winds attraction to take over and reuse the existing police building.
Perhaps the least impactful, or most, depending upon your interest in history, is the plan to move the Nikola Tesla monument from its spot near the Cave of the Winds to Stedman’s Bluff at the northern tip of Goat Island. Tesla was an electrical engineer whose inventions helped harness the power of Niagara Falls.
The work will be a stunning and welcome transformation for Niagara Falls State Park. Consider that about 8.76 million people visited the park this year, which is an increase from the 8.69 million visitors last year. With the park offering something new each of the next few years, we can expect more tourists, and more of them making return visits.
There’s no better advertising than word-of-mouth reports following a great experience.