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MEMORANDUM

Concerning the Jurisdiction, Powers and Proceedings of the Commissioners of the State Reservation at Niagara for the

Preservation of the Falls and Scenery of Niagara.

The following memorandum has been prepared with a view to collating facts concerning:

First. The jurisdiction and powers of the Commissioners of the State Reservation at Niagara with respect to the preservation of the Falls and scenery of Niagara;

Second. What the Commission has done to prevent the impair.

ment of the beauty of the Falls and their environment; and

Third. The course of legislation with respect to charters to private corporations affecting directly or indirectly the Falls and

their enyironment.

Jurisdiction and Powers of the Commission.

The jurisdiction and powers of the Commissioners of the State

Reservation at Niagara are derived from the following acts:

1. Chapter 336 of the Laws of 1883.-This is the original act creating this board and authorizing the selection of the lands constituting the Reservation. The duties defined had reference to the acquisition proceedings and not to the administration of the Reservation. It was repealed by chapter 317 of the Laws of 1894.

2. Chapter 109 of the Laws of 1884.—This act amended chapter 336 of the Laws of 1883 with reference to the acquisition proceedings, and required a report to the Legislature from time to time on the progress of their work. It was repealed by chapter 317 of 3. Chapter 182 of the Laws of 1885.—This act provided for the payment of the awards for the property taken, and is the first to declare (section 3) that the lands taken for this reservation “shall forever be reserved by the State for the purpose of restoring the scenery of the Falls of Niagara to and preserving it in its natural condition; they shall forever be kept open and free of access to all mankind without fee, charge, or expense to any person for entering upon or passing to or over any part thereof." By this important declaration, the State has assumed a trusteeship for all mankind, and in that spirit the Commission has acted. Section 3 was repealed by chapter 317 of the Laws of 1894, but was re-enacted almost verbatim by the same law.

the Laws of 1894.

4. Chapter 286 of the Laws of 1885.—This is the first act prescribing in detail the duties of the Commission with respect to the maintenance and management of the Reservation. It was repealed, with the exception of section 3 providing the penalty for violation of ordinances, by chapter 317 of the Laws of 1894. All of its provisions were embodied in the latter law, however, except the provision that “a majority of said commissioners shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.”

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5. Chapter 656 of the Laws of 1887.-This act amended chapter 286 of the Laws of 1885. It required the payment to the State Treasurer of unexpended moneys on hand October 1, 1887, and of receipts and earnings from the Reservation monthly; stopped the application of proceeds from sales of buildings, etc., to the purposes of the Reservation after October 1, 1887; required the payment to the State Treasurer of proceeds from gifts; required quarterly statements to the Comptroller; substituted the Comp

troller for a Justice of the Supreme Court as approver of the Treasurer's bond; and provided for the manner of the payment of moneys appropriated. This act was repealed by chapter 317 of the Laws of 1894, but all of its provisions except the requirement that the Comptroller should approve the Treasurer's bond, were substantially embodied in that act.

6. Chapter 317 of the Laws of 1894.-The present powers of the Commission are chiefly embodied in article VII of chapter 317

of the Laws of 1894, which is known as “ The Public Lands Law," supplemented in one respect by

7. Chapter 710 of the Laws of 1899.-Amending the Railroad

Law so as to permit the Commissioners of the Reservation to construct street car tracks on one block of Riverway and grant a revokable license for their use.

The powers of the Commission under the last two laws with

respect to the scenery may be summed up as follows:

In the first place, its legal jurisdiction is limited to the bounds

of the Reservation itself. With the single exception of power to

approve of certain structures which may be erected on about five acres of land and land under water belonging to the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Company adjacent to the Reservation at Port Day (referred to more fully on page 67) the Commission has no control over and is not legally responsible for what goes on outside of the Reservation limits.

Within the Reservation limits, the Commission has full control and management. Here it has power, and has exercised it, to remove crib-work, flumes, buildings, and other structures, in carrying out the declared purpose of the law, namely, that of restoring the scenery of Niagara Falls and preserving it in its natural condition

free of access to all mankind." It

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also has power to erect such structures as are necessary for the maintenance and administration of the Reservation, to lay out the roads and paths required to make it accessible, and to take

such other steps as are essential to the restoration and preservation of the landscape to and in its natural condition.

Under authority of chapter 710 of the Laws of 1899, and with a view to the better accommodation of the public, the Commission on September 23, 1899, granted a revokable license to the Niagara Falls and Suspension Bridge Railway Company, to operate street car tracks on a single block of Riverway between Falls and Niagara streets. This block of Riverway is on the

inland margin of the Reservation and was part of a public thoroughfare before the Reservation was created. The tracks do not impair the scenery of the Reservation; and the cars, landing passengers just within the outer edge of the Reservation, are a great

convenience to visitors.

The power of the Commission to prevent the intrusion of foreign structures within the limits of the Reservation is complete, and is subordinate only to the superior authority of the Legisla

ture. Even the Commissioners of the Land Office are forbidden

to grant to any railroad company the land included in the Reser

vation.

(See chapter 565 of the Laws of 1892, known as the

Railroad Law; which reiterates the prohibition contained in chap

ter 601 of the Laws of 1886). In 1886, the Niagara Falls and

Whirlpool Railway Company endeavored to secure a right of way across the Reservation. The company desired to lay its tracks

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