The Commons at Niagara
Passing from one great lake to another,
would this not seem a natural course?
But who could pass treacherous rapids,
or the mighty cataract they surround?
Of what use a river, if not for transit?
But let that not halt the progress of man.
Of what use a river falling great heights
if not to be harnessed for industry?
And so it came to be, mills and plants
along its rushing course, amid the islands
that divide those cataracts, atop the walls
that once were a stately gorge.
But oh, the steep price of progress
and the unbridled power of industry.
Far from sightly, the discharge
of chemicals to air and water
and the scars they leave the cost
of harnessing the power of nature.
If not for visionaries.
Free Niagara became the cry of those
who followed Olmsted’s lead.
And so they did. Land along that gorge,
beside those rapids, and on the islands
at the very brink of the falls,
once claimed by commerce,
became parkland for the people.
From one century to another,
and now another, the trails and paths
of Olmsted and Vaux continue to offer
views that show no sign of those past scars,
only the beauty of this natural wonder
at the Niagara Reservation, the Commons
that displaced an industrial wasteland.
This is my response to earthweal weekly challenge: The Commons, the prompt from Brendan which as us to “describe that half-wild, half-human habitat of sharing and sustenance in your locale?” The Niagara Reservation, later named Niagara Falls State Park, was New York’s first state park. I lived in the area for most of my life and often visited the Falls, sometimes several times a month.
Off prompt, but shared with Day 29 at napowrimo.net.
Aerial view of Niagara Falls from Niagara Falls Public Library
Black & white image: former industry along the Niagara Gorge, from Wikimedia commons
(click photos for larger view in new tab)