In the decades prior to the 1870s, the area next to the Horseshoe Falls became over-run with uncontrolled and unsightly commercial development. Visitors were frequently harassed and swindled by unscrupulous businessmen, making it very difficult to view or enjoy the beauty of the Falls that they had traveled so far to see.
In 1878, Lord Dufferin, who was then Governor General of Canada, made the first public suggestion that a park be established next to the Falls. Over the next few years, support for this concept grew and in 1885 the Ontario government passed the Niagara Falls Park Act, for "the preservation of the natural scenery about Niagara Falls".
To carry out the Act's objective, a commission was formed with Col. Casimir Gzowski appointed as chairman. This was the beginning of what is now known as The Niagara Parks Commission. Properties around the Falls were expropriated and most of the buildings demolished. A lovely 62.2 hectare (154 acre) park, named for Queen Victoria, was then developed and officially opened on May 24, 1888.
In the years since 1885, more and more land has been acquired so that now the Ontario Niagara Parks system covers 1325 hectares (3274 acres) extending along the entire length of the Niagara River. The properties include Falls attractions, golf courses, historic sites, a horticultural school, restaurants and a butterfly conservatory. There is also a 56 km (35 mile) recreational trail and scenic Niagara Parkway.
Today the administrative offices of The Niagara Parks Commission are located at Oak Hall, a historic building overlooking the Dufferin Islands Nature Area. Click here to read more about the History of Oak Hall.
From its inception, The Niagara Parks Commission has been a completely self-funding agency, operating at no cost to the Ontario taxpayer.
From a small beginning over a century ago, The Niagara Parks Commission now hosts millions of visitors each year who come to see its world-renowned parklands and attractions.