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Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy Launches South Park Arboretum Restoration Project

When we think of museums, we think of bright shiny wall backdrops, with statues and works of art, in a pristine indoor setting. But there’s a different type of museum out there that not many people are aware of, and Buffalo has one. It’s the South Park Arboretum, which is essentially an outdoor museum of trees.

Unfortunately, when Buffalo began to tank, so did some of its phenomenal cultural assets, including the South Park Arboretum. In recent years, there has been a push to restore the arboretum, which sits on 156 acres of Olmsted park land. 

Earlier today, the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy officially launched the South Park Arboretum Restoration Project, as part of Olmsted-ucation Week, which is a celebration of 150 Years of Olmsted in Buffalo. 

“The historic return of the South Park Arboretum is a critical mission-centered step in restoring Olmsted’s vision for our park system,” said Stephanie Crockatt, Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy Executive Director. “The results of the feasibility study indicate that this arboretum effort can be partially restored in the short term to serve the community, while providing additional educational opportunities, improving the natural environment, and becoming a regional cultural asset.  With few actual Olmsted designed arboreta in existence, the South Park Arboretum has the potential to attract many visitors from beyond the Buffalo-Niagara region.  We have all the original Olmsted plans, details and plant collections identified and ready to implement, and we welcome the support of the public as this is an important investment with tangible and intangible benefits lasting generations.”

Construction of South Park occurred largely between 1894 and 1900. During that time more than 100,000 trees and woody plants were incorporated into the landscape, including collections for Oak, Walnut, Linden, Maple, Sumac as well as a diverse collection of evergreens and conifers, and many other tree varieties.

Buffalo was once know as the City of Trees. Even today, it’s still easy to see how that is possible, when standing atop a tall building. The parks, the parkways, and the tree lined streets created a green urban oasis. Unfortunately, due to economic pressures, disease, invasive species, storms, and other factors, Buffalo’s trees have been hit hard over the years. Now, there is a concerted effort to restore much of what was lost.

By reestablishing the historic arboretum, there will be renewed opportunities for for educational programming, scientific research, and environmental conservation. The restoration effort will also have a significant impact on water, soil, air quality, wildlife, and pollinators, which will, in turn, have a positive impact on our health, tourism, and the economy. 

 The development plans for South Park included a botanical conservatory, which was built by 1905. However as early as 1915 modern park features, like a baseball field and 9-hole golf course were being added, altering Olmsted’s plan.

Today’s announcement was accompanied by a presentation that outlined the past and present arboretum plights and successes. It was moderated by David Colligan, local attorney and philanthropist, national expert panelists included Dr. Ned Friedman, Director, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University; Lucy Lawliss, Chairwoman, National Association for Olmsted Parks; Doug Blonsky, Former CEO & President, Central Park Conservancy; and Kyle Zick, ASLA, South Park Arboretum Consultant, Kyle Zick Landscape Architecture.

“The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy should be applauded for its steadfast belief in Olmsted’s vision,” stated Dr. Friedman. “Living tree collections not only beautify their landscapes, but also hold nearly unlimited potential to unlock the secrets of evolution, predict the effects of climate change, tell stories about the history of landscape and humankind, and offer the community an opportunity to study and appreciate botany hands-on, forever impacting the lives of residents and most definitely young people in Buffalo.”

 “The value of the restoration of Olmsted’s Arboretum in South Park is priceless,” stated Richard Griffin, Conservancy Trustee and co-leader of the South Park Arboretum Restoration Project.  “I am passionate about the life that trees breathe into a community and that passion is also shared by my counterpart on this project, David Colligan.  We believe in Olmsted’s vision and are personally invested in what we know will be a treasure for the region. We currently have a once in a lifetime opportunity to restore environmental and historic integrity to South Park, to return its glory through the development of the Arboretum.”

To download the complete study and learn more about this restoration, visit For more information on the 150th celebration and to learn more about the history of the Buffalo Olmsted Park System visit

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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