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A MLK Park Walkabout

After taking my dog to Masten Park (next to City Honors School) for a romp last evening, I decided that it was too nice to retire back to the homestead. Making it a double-header, we took a drive over to the Science Museum and parked the car. It had been a while since I last walked the whole of MLK Park, which is what I intended to do.

I’m a big fan of mixing up my park excursions. There was a time when I religiously took my dog to LaSalle Park and Front Park, over and over and over. But the landscape got stale after a while, which is why I decided to try out Masten Park. That’s where I found a great setting for jogging, basketball… and there’s even a gated area (three sides enclosed) where my dog can run freely.

After letting my four-legged friend loose at Masten, MLK came a callin’. What I love most about MLK is the diversity of sights along the way. Starting with the Buffalo Museum of Science, I walked eastward, passing by a series of well maintained basketball courts. While the courts at Masten had been packed, these courts appeared to be used by some of the younger less intense players. Just past the courts was a kempt playground, with a number of picnic shelters.


Along the way, I noticed that the Olmsted Park Conservancy had been cultivating a few Maintained Meadow Areas (MMAs), which I honestly found was one of the nicest natural attributes of the park. Whereas most of the park is unnatural super low cut grass, the MMAs were beautiful and loaded with colorful wildflowers.

Natural growth found underneath a tree - perfect for small critters to hide
Natural growth found underneath a tree – perfect for small critters to hide – surprisingly, I did not encounter one singe milkweed plant at the park, which means that park visitors will not get to experience the natural occurrence of the Monarch butterfly

It was nice to see these MMAs at MLK, a couple were designed as small field settings, while one or two circled trees (see above). There are plenty of winding walkways and paths throughout this park, which are generally used accordingly, as there were no noticeable Paths of Desire that I could see. Olmsted was a big fan of the naturalness of a park, not the manicured Scotts Lawn version. By creating a healthy mix of MMA’s, lawn, pathways, etc., MLK would take on more desirable Central Park attributes.

Maintained Meadow Areas (MMAs)
Typical modern day park with over-mowed lawn
This is what Olmsted intended - Maintained Meadow Areas (MMAs), no mow, low mow fields
This is what Olmsted intended – a healthy mix of Maintained Meadow Areas (MMAs), no mow, low mow fields

From the playground, we walked over to the Humboldt Park Casino (ca. 1926), which features a wading pool in back. I believe that the pool is out of commission (same with the pool at Masten), which is unfortunate because this would be an awesome amenity for families with small ones in tow.


It’s also a shame that the actual casino is not open to the public yet. It would be nice to see someone like Kat Tyler (EM Tea Coffee Cup Café) open a food operation in there, as she once did at Delaware Park inside The Parkside Lodge. Unlike the golf course that never yielded much in the customer department, I bet that the families at MLK would be big supporters of a well-run concession stand within the building. 


I was disappointed to see that the five acre splash pad was dormant on this day, as were others that I talked to. One couple that I spoke to suggested that it was because a fair was setting up shop for the weekend, but that didn’t seem to make much sense. Walking around the splash pad when it’s not operating is pretty lame… it got me to thinking that maybe a wading pool might be a better use, as that was the original intended use for the park feature.


From the splash pad, we headed across Fillmore Avenue to check out the controversial statue of Martin Luther King Jr. (it doesn’t exactly look like the civil rights activist). Then we scooted over to visit the brick Shelter House (1904), and the Greenhouse (1907).


Once again, we came across some MMAs as we headed towards East Parade Avenue. We made our way around the back side of the two structures and looped around to the north side of the park.


That’s where we spotted four tennis courts that are in great condition (hint, hint).

The tennis courts, and the basketball courts mentioned previously
The tennis courts, and the basketball courts mentioned previously

It’s also where we came across a young boy and his mother sipping from a historic water fountain – remember this post? After the boy got his fair share of the water, we stepped up to take a turn. At first I was concerned that there was a significant leak at the base of the fountain, but within moments I realized that there was a huge unintended benefit. We were both able to lap up the water at the same time. 


Feeling refreshed, we headed back over to the splash pad section of the park (after passing more picnic shelters and another playground). We were headed to my favorite part of the grounds. Nestled close by the museum is a hidden garden, protected by stone walls and iron gates. It’s one of my fondest contemplative spots in the entire city.


After picking up a bunch of discarded plastic bottles and blunt wrappers, I took a seat on a concrete bench and soaked up the remaining sun of the day. The park was quiet, people were heading home, and for the first time in weeks, I actually felt completely at ease with nothing to think about other than the majestic park setting and the flowering undergrowth that had presented itself before me.


Before leaving, we made one last stop. We paid a visit to the original front entrance of the Science Museum, which is not currently operational. To me, if The City wants to do something great for the East Side, this is a huge opportunity. Take some of those rainy day funds and get this entranceway up and operational. I know that this is part of the museum’s grand plan… can we see it happen sooner rather than later?


A few steps from the museum’s original front entrance is the ever-looming Kensington Expressway, one of the city’s worst planning decisions of all time. Thankfully, there is hope that one day we will overcome this travesty (see here).


In the meantime, there is a wonderful park that awaits each and every one of us – a park that was once connected to Delaware Park via a stunning Olmsted parkway.


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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