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The Future of Lasalle Park: Bring a Real Park Planner into this Conversation

While speaking with a Pittsburgh journalist this morning, about all for the transformative developments in Buffalo, I couldn’t help but mention that even in this day of enlightenment, we must still be vigilant of the pitfalls that lay ahead. To that point, I brought up The City’s “Master Plan” for LaSalle Park.

As so many districts of the city roll forward, the lackluster park plan is a major step backward, to the days when things got done just to get them done. Those days are over, and we shouldn’t sit back idly awaiting whatever plan The City deems is good for us, especially if that plan is nothing short of craptastic.

Here we have an opportunity to do something great for the West Side, but instead we might let that light shine elsewhere due to lack of finances or an unimaginative design crew that has watched too many previous city plans get rubber stamped over the years.

Since writing my thoughts on LaSalle Park a couple of days ago, I have been on the horn with a couple of residents and park-lovers who want to see something great transpire, instead of the roadway and parking along the water. A former West Side resident sent me an email outlining many of the issues that she observed, along with a number of suggestions, which are as follows:

It’s really good that you’re bringing attention back to LaSalle Park.

I grew up on the West Side, Busti-15th-Grant St-14th-W Ferry (well, at least from 0-4, and 11 years old to 18). 

Lasalle was a place for quiet and peace.  The youth group from my church would walk over in bunches during the afternoons on Sundays after church, and sometimes late nights, whenever really. I remember going there with family, and even solo. You went for quiet and reflection.

The West Side has benefited greatly over the last 20 years with an influx of cultural diversity that far exceeds what was there even during my youth. Now we see Anglos, Latinos, Asian, Burmese, African, Indian, and more.  As a Latina that grew up there with strong cultural roots to the Caribbean, I think the plan should include what reflects the best ALL of the communities that live there.

I would suggest the following:

  • Open amphitheater with the water and Canada as its background, and bench seating with enough floor space for dancing– open to salsa bands, African dance company performances, ethnic theatre performances (all cultures), outdoor movies, meetings, public forums, community lecture series designed toward furthering education and multicultural understanding, storytelling, and more.
  • Areas for tent markets or kiosks (artisans, baskets, jewelry, food, limbes and other cultural treats, clothing, etc).  Local non profit organizations and churches can pay a percentage of their proceeds to the park and have the remainder for their group fundraising. Such would help encourage a sense of ownership, belonging, and care, from the community.  Smaller or struggling organizations can pay in “hours”, exa. cleaning and maintenance schedule.
  • Plenty of seating by the water, with ample points for fishing or Art on Canvas, on small stone walk beaches and perhaps some bridges crossing to the dockwalk– most of the ethnic cultures that live on the West Side miss the waters and fishing from their native lands.
  • Wide open, trimmed plateau space for kite flying (that’s all you see near the moro entrance in Puerto Rico).
  • A space for picnicking with outdoor grills and tables or pavilions (each with a mural of the different cultures that comprise the WS and the city), alongside brightly colored children’s mini playgrounds. 
  • A wide enough PEDESTRIAN and bicycle stone walk with ample grass lining that follows the water and would be an ideal spot for parades that are a big part of these cultures festivities and festivals, with A LOT of bright flowers and gardens.
  • Perhaps a dominoes park like in historic San Juan? Tables, chairs, fountain… people will understand you keep quiet so those playing can concentrate. Ideal for reading.
  • Fruits and vegetable garden enclave.
  • Fire pit areas designed for gathering.

The potential and possibilities are endless, and the celebratory cultural component should be central.

I don’t think it needs to be a replica or repetition of Canalside, but it should none the less be attractive and inviting with plenty to do.

The following photos were taken by a Lakefront Commons’ resident. The images show various types of activities that people would embrace (along the water), including kayaking, cycling, walking, jogging, along with all of the rest of the activities (softball, soccer, skateboarding, football) that take place on a daily basis in the entirety of the park grounds. The general consensus is to get the road and the parking away from the water, and replace that parcel with places to picnic and play. As we have seen, cars and people are not a good mix in a park. Just because that’s the way that it always was, does not mean that that’s the way that it should be in the future. Bring a real park planner into this conversation, please!

There will be a public hearing on this new LaSalle Park Master Plan on July 7, 2015, from 6:00 to 7:00 pm at the Niagara Street Library (280 Porter Street at Prospect).

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Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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