If it is up to me, these words of Daniel Webster from a long ago visit to Rochester will grace a plaque at the [hopefully] upcoming High Falls State Park:
“Men of Rochester, I am glad to see you, and I am glad to see your noble city. Gentlemen, I saw your Falls, which I am told are one hundred and fifty feet high. That is a very interesting fact. Gentlemen , Rome had her Cæsar, her Scipio, her Brutus, but Rome in her proudest days never had a waterfall one hundred and fifty feet high! Gentlemen, Greece had her Pericles, her Demosthenes, and her Socrates, but Greece in her palmiest days never had a waterfall one hundred and fifty feet high! Men of Rochester, go on. No people ever lost their liberties who had a water fall one hundred and fifty feet high!” (From the book “Rochester—a City Historical,” 1894)
Truncate it a little if need be. I mean, the guy’s a bit of a windbag. But that is what orators did back then in the days before microphones. Yes, and apparently he was told wrong. The falls today are 96 feet high.
A city should always make maximum use of its river area and Rochester doesn’t. This new park of 40 acres would change that. It is a long haul ahead, though. Lands involved “have been used for generations now, primarily for utility generation and they’re contaminated. So, we have to not only acquire them, but make sure the areas are clean and safe for public use.”
(photo: New York Park, Recreation and Historic Preservation Department)
While a college student, I worked three summers for that utility, Rochester Gas and Electric. A summer job and I was happy to have it. One year I worked on the paint crew, one year in the gatehouse, and one year as a welder’s assistant. Some of the guys would mutter all day long about a certain boss known to spy from atop the Platt Street bridge with binoculars to make sure everyone was working.
Funding for the new park is murky. The governor pledges six million to kickstart it. It would be one great way to showcase the city.