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Terrapin Point….Off Limits

By Emma Gibbs

Will tourists be prohibited from experiencing Terrapin Point this summer?

As another tourist season approaches, the New York State Parks Office is trying to fine tune a sale pitch explaining to some eight million annual visitors why the American side viewing area of the Horseshoe Falls is off limits.

Terrapin Point, located at the western end of Goat Island, has been cordoned off with chained link fence barricading visitors from the vista of the Falls and Lower Gorge.

The Parks is four years into a $50 million rehab project which includes renovations on Goat Island. At first glance, the project shows progress through the past winter. While numerous construction efforts on the Niagara Frontier have moved forward during the  off season, the LiRo Group, prime contractor of the project, has little to show.

Terrapin Point joins Prospect Point as the most frequented viewing areas on the American side of the Falls. The scope of Terrapin work involves railings, path work, landscaping, and pavers, nothing which justifies stealing a once­—in-­a-­lifetime visit away from guests to Western New York.

Regardless of the construction, the Parks and local Tourist industry continue to highlight Terrapin Point in their promotional campaigns.

“People will not be happy” warned a veteran State Parks source, “these visitors are traveling here with little or no knowledge the Terrapin property is fenced off. Taking pictures through chained link fence is not what they are expecting.”

The notoriety of Terrapin grew to new lengths in 1983 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blasted 25,000 tons of unstable rock off the nose of Terrapin Point. The demolition was telecast worldwide and brought awareness to this unique overlook on some of the world’s most recognizable International waters. Despite the scope of the Corps demolition, Terrapin was able to re­open to the public before the end of that same season.

As the Parks approach the beginning of this year’s tourist schedule, with Canada’s Victoria Day and our Memorial Day in the last two weeks of May, the State Parks properties leave much to be desired. More than Terrapin Point, the thought of the Plaza around the Cave of the Winds being torn up is enough to put knots in the stomach of the most veteran tour guide. Lines at the Cave of the Winds on busy summer days have been as long as three hours.

Now, with plans in place to operate the Cave concession for sandals and raincoats out of temporary trailers, timed tours are facing a logistical nightmare. It is difficult to understand why this work could not have been done in the “shoulder season”, outside the critical 15­ week window welcoming eight million tourists annually.

Somewhere down the road Albany should be able to derive a timetable which respects the interests of visitors to America’s oldest State Park. Anyone who travelled Goat Island during the past three tourist seasons has to be turned off by the construction which has decimated the lands Olmsted cherished dearly. Chicken wire on Three Sisters Islands, construction debris everywhere, caution tape strewn about like unchartered wildflowers, tourists forced to walk on unfinished walkways, newly laid pavers lifting, creating tripping hazards. It is unfortunate that the victims of these butchered parklands remain the visitors who arrived at this “special place” looking for memories which they hoped would last their lifetime.

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