Hope for Niagara Falls?



A green mayor? Of Niagara Falls, N.Y.? For those who know the history of mob wars, political corruption, industrial decline, and chemical pollution associated with this city, such a phrase goes beyond oxymoron. But current mayor Paul Dyster (one of the few Falls mayors with a graduate degree) has made energy conservation, sustainable government, and restoring the natural beauties that still exist his priorities.

I’m mainly interested in Dyster’s plans to restore the Olmsted landscape and the trails along the gorge (caveat: the article I’ve linked to does not really dwell on that). I’ve always felt that the American side of the Falls, though with a less spectacular view, has prettier surroundings in terms of parkland. Goat Island still has some fairly wild areas, with lots of charming paths. I interviewed Dyster a while back and he may be one of the few—if not only—mayors I’ve ever talked to who actually uttered the words “ecosystem” and “native plants.” I’m not sure that a couple of the mayors who preceded him would know what ecosystem means. I do not exaggerate.

Dyster speaks knowledgably of the age of some of the tree cultivars along the gorge—including 1,500-year-old spruces—and confidently of the benefits of removing at least that portion of the Robert Moses parkway along the immediate Falls area. (It really should all go—in addition to acting as a barrier to the river and gorge, it’s barely used.) He feels that visitors to the Falls should experience some of the beauty we can now only see in 19th century paintings and says that any madmade elements have to rise to a certain standard.

Well, of course, we may think—of course this crucial piece of parkland, America’s first state park, should be preserved and treasured. But that just hasn’t been the case. In the meantime, now is a perfect time to walk the Whirlpool gorge (with care); the fall wildflowers are in bloom and the trees are beginning to color. I don’t know whether to be sad or happy that so few tourists ever get to experience its beauty.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. I’ve walked the gorge trail from below Niagara University, Devil’s Hole State Park by whirlpool rapids up to the Niagara Whirlpool.

    I’ve hiked in Muir Woods, Lake Como, around Zermatt, Cornwall, Loire Valley, the Adirondacks, the Cliffs of Dover, the Rockies, Acadia National Park, the Bavarian Forest and more.

    I have to say that the Niagara Gorge Trail is the most beautiful hike I’ve ever gone on. Along this hike you see hydropower dams on both sides of the border, old-growth forests, the spinning Whirlpool, the Spanish Aero Car (cable car) overhead, the Niagara Whirlpool Jet Boats zooming by, massively old trees & geological oddities.

    And this part of Niagara, down a ways below the Falls Falls, the some of the most intense rapids in the world (rapids are based on a scale of of 1 to 6, these are a 5+. In comparison, Snake Canyon Rapids run up to 3+). It’s illegal to enter the water here. Check out this first legal run of the rapids:

    This are should be protected and enhanced, as its one of the most beautiful spots in the world. If you are ever out this way it is a must see/do hike – and a relatively easy hike too, I might add!

  2. As a former Buffalo gal, I can only support the mayor’s efforts. Those of us who grew up in western NY know it as a place of beauty, history and yes, culture. I remember so many visits as a child and an adult to the Falls, but I realize from Jim’s comments how little I’ve really seen.

  3. Wow – I have visited the falls several times in the last few years, and never knew there were hiking trails around. Too bad I have just moved from western NY, or I would be very interested in trying them out. I hope that the mayor can carry through on his plans!

  4. Kudos to Mayor Paul Dyster. Elizabeth- thanks for reminding me about one of Western NYs magical places. I will be back in Buffalo soon and will try to go for a hike.
    Jim- interesting comments. I agree, a paradise.

  5. I just read a very interesting and biting book about the history of Niagara Falls including all the exploitation and lies behind the tourist facade. It’s called Inventing Niagara by Ginger Strand
    Very enjoyable for anyone who likes to hear the truth behind the stories we are taught in school and/or told at historical sites. Strand is both a fine writer and relentless researcher.

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