I want to quickly reflect on a couple of articles written by Martha Neri on the state of Cathedral Park in Downtown Buffalo. In her two-part series, Martha talked about a children’s playground that had been locked up for years (ever since I can remember actually), and how the locked gates were finally being unlocked (see part 1 and part 2). In fact, I’ve written about the same lifeless playground for years, and the need for that lock to be removed. So when Martha wrote to me, sharing the news, I was overjoyed.
Yesterday I had a meeting at the Guaranty Building. After the meeting curiosity got the best of me and I decided to walk over to the park to see if kids were actually playing in the park. As if witnessing a miracle, there were indeed kids playing on the slides. Now this might seem like a trivial event to write about, but to me this is a small snapshot of a much larger picture.
For years it appeared as if no one would ever question why this playground was locked up. It was if it was merely there to tease families that were visiting downtown, or living there. To me, the locked playground always represented what had happened to the city of Buffalo during its dark years. Close the buildings, lock the gates, turn out the lights…
Once the city started to make a comeback I would continually pass this playground and look to see if the lock was still on the gate. It always was. It wasn’t until Martha wrote to me that I learned that the lock had been removed.
As I approached the park, and heard the children playing, I could’t help but smile. Another victory for Buffalo… small, but significant in a symbolic way. Then I noticed something else. Not only was the lock missing, but the entire gate had been removed… meaning that the playground had no barriers at all.
As we witness Buffalo transforming around us, we must always remember to pay attention to the smallest of details. Clean our sidewalks, pick up the litter, plant a tree, and create welcoming spaces for people, young and old (and the critters too). These are the things that affect us all on a daily basis. Having a place to let their kids romp means a lot to parents who might not otherwise think about coming downtown to shop, eat lunch or simply walk around. A lifeless playground is never a good image to have no matter where it is located. Thankfully those days are over for the Cathedral Park playground that is now open for “business”.