The budding tourist industry in Niagara Falls in the mid 1800’s was cause for concern to many locals and government officials. With no governing body to protect the Niagara Parks, shady businessmen of all types converged on the Niagara ‘scene’ to weasle their slice of the pie (that pie being the tourist dollar). There were growing concerns than Niagara Falls was turning into a ‘honkey tonk’ and that this was detract from the Falls itself and its natural beauty.
The Niagara Parks Commission was formed in 1885 to preserve and promote the natural beauty of Niagara Falls and the surrounding parkland. The Parks Commission is an autonomous body and takes no tax payer’s dollars for its operation. It relies on the money that tourists spend in the Parks. This money is used to maintain the 6 1/4 square miles, stretching 35 miles from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.
The Niagara Parks Commission runs an ever growing list of attractions. Amongst these, the Maid of The Mist, The Whirlpool Aero Car, The Floral Clock, The Botanical Gardens and Butterfly Conservatory, Table Rock House, the Floral Showcase, Queenston Heights, 3 golf courses, numerous restaurants, gift shops and parkland.
The Board of Commissioners is comprised of twelve individuals, with Niagara Regional interests, that report directly to the Ontario government.
As of late, there has been rumblings of inpropriety concerning some operations of the Niagara Parks Commission. Most notably was the revelation that Joel Noden, a senior executive, incurred almost $400,000 in expenses during a three year period. He is just one of the people involved with the Commission to be ousted in the last few months. Apparently concerned politicians and Parks employees have been trying to draw attention to the sketchy practises of the Niagara Parks Commissions since 2005 but until recently they mostly fell upon deaf ears.
Another bone of contention is the contract for the Maid of the Mist boat ride. The Maid of the Mist has been operating from Niagara Falls, ON since 1846. It is owned by a U.S. company and also runs our of Niagara Falls, NY. Apparently the Parks Commission granted them another 25 year contract, however this contract was untendered. The decision was overturned and now open for tender.
If one visits Niagara Falls, they are blissfully unaware of all these rumblngs. The attractions are spectacular, the drive down the Niagara Parkway is serene and memorable and everything seems to be quite in order.
Let’s hope that this ‘shake up’ of the Niagara Parks Commission goes far to keep things this way!