Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the nation. The land along the spectacular sections where the Niagara River falls 167 feet to the gorge below was set aside as a park in 1885.
Niagara Falls State Park is a popular tourist destination, drawing people from well outside New York state to its beauty and entertainment.
However, with 8 million visitors a year, the park is subject to a tremendous amount of wear and tear, and it simply was not kept up very well these past years.
The state already appropriated $25 million for a multi-year project that got under way earlier this year to renovate and rebuild facilities and amenities in parts of the 400-acre park.
Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration negotiated with the family-run Maid of the Mist Corp. to continue operating boat excursions from the state park and for the park to receive increased revenue from it.
"The Maid of the Mist tours by the world-famous Niagara Falls waterfalls and of the Niagara River Gorge are a signature tourism attraction of Western New York," the governor said in announcing the agreement. "The agreement that the state of New York has reached with the Maid of the Mist for a winter boat storage location on the New York side of the falls will ensure that this Western New York corporation continues to bring great value to the region's tourism and economy, including increased revenues for state parks. At the same time, the agreement provides for capital improvements for enhanced outdoor recreational attractions for the public's enjoyment, making this multidimensional accord a win-win for Niagara Falls State Park, the region and New York state."
Yes, it is exactly that.
Under the provisions of the new memorandum of understanding, the license payments from the Maid of the Mist to State Parks are projected to total $105 million over the 30 years remaining on the amended contract, a news release from the governor's office notes. That is three times larger than the revenues projected when the contract was initially approved in 2002.
The governor's office said that in 2014, the Maid of the Mist will pay a guaranteed $2.2 million minimum license payment to State Parks - nearly a 50 percent increase over the license payment of $1.47 million in 2011.
While Niagara Falls may seem far away from our area, it's still in New York state.
More revenue brought in by tourism provides the state with one less excuse to raise taxes. Popular tourism attractions also can bring in more revenue from nearby businessess.
As residents of New York state, we are all in this together. State parks and historic sites can play a vital role in keeping our local heritage - wherever it is in the Empire State - strong.
We hope the state will remember that when the parks, historic sites and other tourist attractions in our local area need a hand.