March 6, 2014
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces More Outdoor Activities to Attract Visitors to Niagara Falls

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the release of a Request for Proposals for outdoor recreation programming and related facilities in Niagara Falls, New York. Niagara Falls has 11 miles of waterfront on the Upper and Lower Niagara River with four State Parks and underutilized historic structures. The RFP seeks an unprecedented expansion of the amount and types of activities and experiences available to tourists and local residents. This exciting new programming will be designed to increase the number of visitors and boost the tourism economy of the City of Niagara Falls by increasing and extending the stays of vacationers.


Niagara Falls attracts as many as eight million visitors every year, and by improving recreational activities in the area we can support that vital tourism industry and continue growing the local economy, Governor Cuomo said. Through this RFP, the State will be supporting local efforts to make the Falls an even more attractive destination for travelers and ultimately encouraging visitors to stay longer, spend more, and come back often.


Copies of the RFP can be found by going to the NY Contract Reporter Website ( or by emailing a request to [email protected] (please note the contract no. X001171). Proposals are due May 16, 2014. Photos of some of the potential sites can be found here.


A signature characteristic of Western New York is our stunning riverfront and gorge in beautiful Niagara Falls, said Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair and University at Buffalo President Satish K Tripathi. Thanks to Governor Cuomo, we are building upon this natural wonder through the creation of interactive experiences making Niagara Falls a first-rate destination for tourists from across the nation and world.


The Buffalo Niagara region is finally realizing its potential as a top tourist destination by leveraging its unparalleled base of natural assets, said Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair and Larkin Development Group Managing Partner Howard Zemsky. This RFP will go far to expand world-class outdoor recreation pursuits in Niagara Falls and attract additional visitors for longer overnight stays.


The RFP seeks a qualified master licenseeor a limited number of licenseesto establish, operate and maintain a program of outdoor recreation activities and associated capital/real estate facilities in New York State Parks and on other open space owned by the New York Power Authority (NYPA).The agency owns and operates four State Parks within the targeted project area, including Niagara Falls State Park, Whirlpool State Park, DeVeaux Woods State Park and Devils Hole State Park.


Recreational activities in the area could include an observation deck, horseback riding, bicycling, fishing, birding, rappelling and rock climbing, hiking trailheads, historic/interpretation, zip line/canopy tours, cross country skiing and upgrades to the Gorge Discovery Center.


An example of potential use includes the collection of historic structures at DeVeaux Woods State Park being fully repurposed as an active heritage campus. The campus could be a launching off or ending point for waterfront recreations with support facilities, such as stables for horseback riding, bicycling or trekking gear rental, all in the context of a larger use such as a heritage inn or urban winery focusing on local vineyards. Conversely, other areas could involve as little as better outfitting existing open spaces along the Upper River to support new activities, perhaps through the installation of a limited number of fish cleaning stations in key fishing areas or interpretive stations for viewing waterfowl.


USA Niagara Development Corporation (USAN), a subsidiary of Empire State Development (ESD), is assisting State Parks in the RFP solicitation. In addition, ESD/USAN is prepared to make funds available, as appropriate, under the Governors Buffalo Billion investment strategy for Western New York to assist in achieving a bold expansion of public outdoor recreational offerings in State Parks along the riverfront. The agencies seek a comprehensive approach and program from potential teamsinclusive of everything from facilitated tours to sensitive development of heritage lodging establishments where certain less economically robust activities could be offset by other more profitable ones.


Creating a highly-developed outdoor recreational economy at Niagara Falls is key to this regions economy, said Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams. We want Niagara Falls to be the ultimate tourist destination and to attract visitors from all over, and we will continue building and enhancing attractions in the area to achieve that goal.


The need for sensitively incorporating new activities while preserving the natural environment along the river will be a key consideration in moving forward on an expanded program of outdoor recreational uses, said NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey. These new activities will help connect parks to people, and deepen the publics enjoyment and appreciation for Niagara Falls natural environment.


Currently, Niagara Falls attracts eight million visitors annuallymore than most U.S. national parks and nearly double the draw of the Grand Canyonbut overnight stays and visitor spending is less in the region. This loss in revenue can be traced to the limited number and quality of amenities in the Niagara Falls area which hamper the regions ability to fully capitalize on the millions of visits to the region.


Senator George Maziarz said, It is time for Niagara Falls visitors to step away from the guardrail and head in some new directions so they can enjoy our natural wonder from many points of view. By increasing the type and amount of recreational programming at the Falls we are sure to see tourists enjoying the park and the surrounding area in whole new ways and staying for more days. These longer stays are what we need to grow and revitalize our tourism based economy.


Assemblyman John Ceretto said, No matter the season, Niagara falls is a nature lovers dream come true. You will be able to experience the falls dangling from the face of a cliff, riding a horse or zipping across a line. All of these new outdoor activities will be a terrific way to encourage tourists to extend their stay and boost the economy of the region.


City of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, The Maid of the Mist and the Cave of the Winds are proof that, given the opportunity, visitors will take advantage of any activities that give them a unique view of the Falls. Increased recreational programming will add to that extraordinary experience. We have some of the most beautiful landscape in the world. These new activities will make sure visitors stay longer and leave here feeling they have experienced something unforgettable.


This announcement is the latest in a series of economic development initiatives that Governor Cuomo has prioritized in Niagara Falls including:


  • The launch of the $40 million Downtown Niagara Falls Development Challenge a major competition to select a team of world-class developers to envision and develop signature projects in the downtown area;
  • Brokering an agreement for the formerly stalled hotel development project by the Hamister Group, Inc.;
  • Saving the Maid of the Mist scenic boat excursions from shutting down;
  • Investing $25 million in recent and planned upgrades in Niagara Falls State Park;
  • Redeveloping the vacant Rainbow Centre Mall for mixed-use;
  • Transforming the Robert Moses Parkway to create an at-grade, low-speed parkway that will reconnect downtown with the Falls and create opportunities for tourists and residents to enjoy the river;
  • Supporting future proposed hotel renovation projects to bring more than 500 new high quality rooms to Niagara Falls.