At long last, it looks as if a design plan for a major section of LaSalle Park is getting closer to fruition. Yes, I’m talking about the southern portion of the park, which has been underutilized for decades. This is also the section of the park that has a crumbling seawall as well as a non-functional and deteriorating seaplane ramp.
Back in 1998, a Master Plan was created for the park, which was then updated in 2000. Unfortunately, the vision became a dream that never made it past the concept stage. Almost two decades later, a number of parties are coming back to the table, to possibly glean from the old plan, while formulating new strategies pertaining to repair, amenities, beautification and access.
So far, the site analysis is 80% complete. Three alternative concepts have been developed (see below). The 1st public meeting (review concepts, receive input) was held on April 25, and a second public meeting (to present and review preferred alternative) is scheduled for Thursday, June 8. Advance design plans, phasing options and cost estimates are scheduled to be complete by the end of June.
Some of the issues that are being addressed include:
The Pavilion: There are some tears that need to be repaired. The fabric has ten years left before needing to be addressed. There is some cosmetic cracking, and some corrosion, and the electrical needs work. The stage area has “substantial settling” and ADA accessibility needs to be addressed.
The Concession Building: Brick needs some repointing, wood fascia needs replacement, and the paving around the building needs to be replaced. The good news is that without much work, it could be ready for a tenant – the mechanicals and electrical system have already been renovated.
Shoreline: Washouts and sinkholes need to be filled. The former seaplane ramp has eroded concrete and exposed steel, which needs further investigation.
Seawall (Army Corps of Engineers): Most of the seawall needs minor repair (within project area). The northern section near the pumping station is planned for repair. The southern section has major deterioration.
Following are some of the issues that should be addressed:
- Vehicular traffic along waterfront, barrier to pedestrians, excessive speed
- Lack of minor (pedestrian only) pathways, purposeful connections or function
- Access to water and/or waterfront
- Lack of naturalized landscapes / excessive mowing
- Pavilion not meeting needs of users
- Cleaning of debris at seaplane ramp is difficult and requires heavy equipment
- Parking during peak usage
- Requirement to maintain emergency access through park and to neighborhood
Following are questions/comments/concerns that have been fielded:
- Can something be done about the garbage in the park?
- Improve the roadways
- Car top boat launch, kayak/canoe
- Ferry connection to marina
- Buffer along I-190
- Concern about vandalism if additional restroom constructed
- Keep seaplane ramp for emergency access/training
- Debris deflector
- Focus on upland portions of park
- Consider festivals and events that use pavilion
- Possible Buffalo Maritime Center?
Following are opportunities at hand:
- Relocate / limit vehicular traffic along waterfront
- Define and consolidate parking areas
- Continue 12-foot wide shoreline trail ‘off-road’ through park o Provide pedestrian pathways with purposeful connections
- Provide plaza at concession stand
- Reduce mowing, create naturalized or habitat areas
- Capitalize on lake views and interior park views
- Create waterfront experience
- Provide access to water
- Remove or protect existing seawall near seaplane ramp
- Explore options for connection to Hudson and 4th St Park
- Explore options for pavilion to meet needs of users
Comments from last public meeting, prepared by Wendel, are as follows:
- Keep cars away from playground area at south end. Inconsiderate drivers create safety issues.
- Andy Rabb mentioned we need to main vehicular access to the south end of the park for kayak transport, picnic shelter access.
- Measures will be taken to calm traffic. Recently installed speed bumps work well. Narrow more serpentine roads would help slow traffic and mitigate racetrack effect.
- Revetment treatment in “lagoon” needs to take into account lake surges and/or seiches.
- Existing sea wall built on wood cribbing which is deteriorating. Water surges below and releases like geysers from behind wall.
- Focusing parking in specific areas rather than along roadways and sea wall is preferred.
- Need for police buy-in on proposed circulation and parking concepts.
- Andy Rabb announced that it is likely that additional security cameras will be added in strategic locations.
- More people accessing and present in the park will theoretically aid in security and safety.
- LaSalle Park is currently open 24 hours to accommodate fishing activities. Changing park hours will require an amendment to the City Ordinance and City Charter.
- Audience likes the idea of pulling vehicular traffic away from the waterfront to the greatest extent possible in favor of developing a more pedestrian friendly setting.
- There is a desire to include water fountains for people, not just dogs. Andy Rabb mentioned that this would involve relatively expensive infrastructure to insure water quality safety. Wendel will look at opportunities to incorporate “bottle fillers” at strategic locations. Request for one by Skate Park and one by Playground.
- Need to remedy garbage totes blowing over and trash being strewn throughout the park. Possibly incorporate “tote hooks” similar to those implemented along Cape Cod Canal.
- Can boats potentially be docked along park sea wall? The navigational channel abuts the sea wall along the south end of the park and water level is approximately 9 feet below the Riverwalk, making access problematic.
- Need to incorporate emergency ladders along sea wall. This will be part of Army Corp of Engineers sea wall project, if feasible.
- It would be nice if boaters could access and appreciate park from the water.
- There was a suggestion to reference potential “Belt Line” connection potential along east edge of park.
- It was suggested that bike racks be added at strategic points within the park.
- The concern was raised about hypodermic needles strewn about park. Andy Rabb asked that park patron call 311 rather than handling or disposing of needles.
- Interpretive sign(s) shall be incorporated narrating the history of LaSalle Park.
- It would be nice if more winter activities could be programmed within the park.
- Concept should consider and show proposed walking paths within the park and how they would relate to existing paths.
- Andy Rabb mentioned that the City was successful in acquiring a grant from the Niagara River Greenway Commission to help fund the first phase of improvements for this project.
Per the agreement between City of Buffalo and Wendel (Project Landscape Architect) the scope for this project is broken into three (3) phases:
- Phase 1 Pre-Design, Scoping & Programming (Site analysis, research, meet with stakeholders and generate three (3) alternative concepts to be generated for review and comment) Complete April 25, 2017
- Phase 2 Schematic Design (Preferred concept and Estimate) End of May 2017
- Phase 3 Design Development (Preferred concept and estimate will be further advanced identifying potential phasing to help facilitate grant applications to fund construction documents and subsequent construction)
End of June 2017
A LaSalle Park Steering Committee meeting will be held on Thursday, June 8 from 6:00pm to 7:30pm at the Niagara Branch Public Library – (lower level) 280 Porter Avenue. The meeting will be hosted by the Division of Parks and Recreation. Wendel (the City’s design consultant) will reveal the final design concept. The community it invited to attend.