The YMCA Turkey Trot is the “oldest continually run footrace in North America.” It is only a couple of decades younger than the park through which it has passed for over a century.
But this year the park was more than a backdrop – it spoke up and asked for help. Dozens of advocates for the park were on site with a simple message: we need help to stop the DOT’s top-down plan for the 198 from being shoved down our throats.
The protest was quite lively, as you can see from some of the photos here, and this video clip (courtesy of the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition):
All this comes less than a week after a larger protest rally in the park.
The protesting is not just about stopping things – what advocates don’t want – as much as it is about what they do want. In July, the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition, and the cultural institutions in the corridor unveiled a plan showing a better option.
And last year, the Western Scajaquada Coalition unveiled a vision of what the western end of the highway and creek corridor could be like if the highway were completely eliminated there.
As I pointed out during the summer, a fundamental problem with the DOT’s plan is that, from the beginning, it has been about finding more-or-less cosmetic changes to the highway, and has never been a corridor plan. And that is the case despite the fact that, nearby, the DOT sponsored some outstanding planning work on the 33 corridor led by UB. That work has since resulted in forward progress on an option to restore a section of Humboldt Parkway. Why can’t DOT work with UB in the same way on the 198 corridor? No one has been able to get an answer to that question, and it isn’t for any lack of trying.
In the absence of such planning, I’ve been doing my own planning analysis in a series that’s nearly finished (here is a link to the latest post, which includes links to all the others), perhaps more out of frustration than anything. While there is plenty of room for disagreement with any or all of the recommendations, feedback I’ve gotten agrees this is the kind of corridor-wide analysis we need.
So, again, why won’t our DOT, which has the resources, call on UB, which has the expertise?
Aside from that, where do things currently stand with the advocacy? Things seemed dark indeed on August 6, when Sam Hoyt and then-DOT Commissioner Matt Driscoll announced at a public meeting, in so many words, “here’s the plan you’re getting – take it or leave it.” The DOT even lied to public officials about that meeting, telling them that it was just an update, that it wasn’t anything final, and that there would be at least one additional community meeting.
But at least being lied to by the DOT finally awoke public officials to the reality that they were never going to substantially improve the plan by playing nice and being cooperative. It also – finally – worked to turn advocates into activists.
Which resulted in the actions of the last week.
But will it be enough? Or too little too late? Ominous news circulated at last Saturday’s rally: just the day before – imagine that – DOT had submitted their draft Environmental Impact Statement to the FHWA. That starts a clock running, and may mean the FHWA public comment period will be during the holidays, when people’s attention is naturally elsewhere.
And what can you do? Lots of things. You can sign the petition – now over 5,000 signatures – find out how to get a lawn sign and t-shirt, see who to contact, and even get a suggestion of what to say, all HERE. You can also get on the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition’s email list or join a committee HERE.
Like the Turkey Trotters, advocates will have to stay the course and not falter until over the finish line.
Photo credit: Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy