A green mayor? Of Niagara Falls, N.Y.? For those who know the history of mob wars, political corruption, industrial decline, and chemical pollution associated with this city, such a phrase goes beyond oxymoron. But current mayor Paul Dyster (one of the few Falls mayors with a graduate degree) has made energy conservation, sustainable government, and restoring the natural beauties that still exist his priorities.

I’m mainly interested in Dyster’s plans to restore the Olmsted landscape and the trails along the gorge (caveat: the article I’ve linked to does not really dwell on that). I’ve always felt that the American side of the Falls, though with a less spectacular view, has prettier surroundings in terms of parkland. Goat Island still has some fairly wild areas, with lots of charming paths. I interviewed Dyster a while back and he may be one of the few—if not only—mayors I’ve ever talked to who actually uttered the words “ecosystem” and “native plants.” I’m not sure that a couple of the mayors who preceded him would know what ecosystem means. I do not exaggerate.

Dyster speaks knowledgably of the age of some of the tree cultivars along the gorge—including 1,500-year-old spruces—and confidently of the benefits of removing at least that portion of the Robert Moses parkway along the immediate Falls area. (It really should all go—in addition to acting as a barrier to the river and gorge, it’s barely used.) He feels that visitors to the Falls should experience some of the beauty we can now only see in 19th century paintings and says that any man-made elements have to rise to a certain standard.

Well, of course, we may think—of course this crucial piece of parkland, America’s first state park, should be preserved and treasured. But that just hasn’t been the case. In the meantime, now is a perfect time to walk the Whirlpool gorge (with care); the fall wildflowers are in bloom and the trees are beginning to color. I don’t know whether to be sad or happy that so few tourists ever get to experience its beauty.