BY FRANK PARLATO;
Last week, the idea for ferry service along the Lower Niagara was announced by Matthew Ohji^grago: Ricchiazzi, a Cornell-trained urban planner with an MBA in private equity. He leads a Buffalo-based investment group and his company is Native American owned.
The ferry, consisting of a fleet of 30-passenger boats, will transport tourists along the Lower Niagara at the bottom of the gorge where neither the Maid of the Mist nor the Whirlpool Jet Boats run. For the first time in modern history, passengers will have water access along this safe section of river, below the stratified rock gorge, from near the Niagara pool to the Whirlpool Rapids.
Ricchiazzi, citing the Treaty of Canandaigua, the Jay Treaty of 1795, the Treaty of Ghent, and case law, says, as a Native American, he does not need New York State approval for the ferry.
“The Haudenosaunne people are entitled to unobstructed navigation of our waterways irrespective of border crossings, and free of tariffs, tolls, or levies,” he said. “We have every right to offer tours in the Niagara Gorge, especially at Niagara Falls – among the most sacred of all Haudenosaunne religious sites.”
The timing may be right.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced plans for new hiking trails that traverse the now little-explored lands along the Niagara gorge.
Empire State Development President and CEO Howard Zemsky explained, “Our plan was and is to connect Niagara Falls back to the waterfront.”
Presently the only way to explore these trails are for hikers to climb down steep cliffs, or at Devil’s Hole and Whirlpool State Parks where stone steps make the path less onerous. Hikers still have to climb back up. But RIcchiazzi’s ferry will drop people on the banks with immediate access to the trails without the need of climbing up or down the steep gorge walls.
Ricchiazzi plan to transport people to the base of Goat Island under Terrapin Point, on rocky lands between the two Falls, may become one of the State Park’s most natural and awe inspiring spaces. This 15 acre area is currently inaccessible.
For Indian and non-Indians who wish to pray upon the rocks at the base of the Falls, it will mean newfound access to mythical geography, Ricchiazzi said.