The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy Inc. (the Conservancy) has agreed to a signed memorandum of understanding with Nicklaus Olmsted Buffalo Inc. (the Company) that spells out how the two will interact/operate together, and apart, moving forward. Essentially, in the case of getting the proposed Nicklaus-designed golf course off the ground, it takes two to tango. That means that there will be two distinct roles between the two parties, which will help financial donors distinguish between the two non-profits. At the same time, it is also being made clear that neither group officially speaks for the City of Buffalo, the Olmsted Parks landowner.
The Company has proposed to construct the golf course in South Buffalo (see background), which would allow for the removal of the South Park golf course and full restoration of Olmsted’s renowned Arboretum.
With three distinct parties to consider, including the role of The City as land owner, there is bound to be some confusion, which will hopefully be alleviated by the MOU. Donations can be a sticky wicket, if the relationship between all parties is not spelled out clearly. Operational duties also need to be clear, so as not to create confusion once the golf course is up and running.
The non-binding, four-page memorandum (MOU), dated March 29, 2019, was necessary in order to allow the Conservancy and the Company to collaborate on “prospective projects of mutual interest.” At this stage of the game, no golf project within the Olmsted landscape is yet to be approved, but the MOU is another indicator that talks are moving in the right direction.
Representative parties are Kevin Gaughan, chairman and CEO, and Peter Hunt, board member, for the Company; and Dennis Horrigan, board chair, and Stephanie Crockatt, executive director, for the Conservancy.
“The purpose of this MOU is to develop a framework of cooperation between the Company and the Conservancy, form common ground areas of interest pertaining to potentially new and/or modified park amenities in the Buffalo Olmsted Park System, and provide clarity around the communication, documentation, studies and process required for Conservancy and City consideration,” it states.
The memorandum outlines that: “Formal approval by the City of Buffalo would be required for any actual park projects constructed on city-owned land. The Conservancy’s Board of Trustees would also need to officially approve any proposed projects within the Olmsted landscape.” “This document has been in the works for a while, obviously, and is needed to clarify the multiple distinctions between our organizations, considering both have the Olmsted name,” Horrigan said. “We feel this begins to bring clarity, affirmation and accountability to the forefront.”
“With this memorandum comes great opportunity, to create new public amenities for Buffalo, and to help lift its underserved youth,” said Gaughan. “The MOU is an essential step toward the success of our plan, and I’m pleased to collaborate with the Conservancy to help make that plan a reality.”
Specifically, the agreement outlines Conservancy and Company priorities:
“In entering into this MOU, the Company acknowledges the Conservancy as the 40-year, mission-based steward of the Olmsted park system, and will follow its process of assessing newly proposed or modified park amenities, including, but not limited to, providing required documentation and studies … with formal review by the Conservancy’s Long Range Planning Committee and Design Review Committee, in alignment with the Conservancy’s published and updated Master Plan.”
“Much has been written and discussed about the prospect of golf in and near the Olmsted landscapes,” said Crockatt. “And while no one disputes the grander vision for these ideas, with this MOU public and private expectations can be better managed, and we can begin to review detailed data, analytics and business plans in considering if and how the city and its Olmsted parks could benefit.”
Other benefits of the MOU include:
- Conservancy benefits include clarifying roles, including the assurance for factual and supportive communications involving the Conservancy and its Olmsted Parks brand. Other benefits include activating long-term restorative plans in furthering its mission focus in accordance with its master plan, while supporting and sustaining National Register of Historic Places status for the Olmsted park system.
- Company benefits include clarified roles and responsibilities, understanding of processes required by the Conservancy, as well as authenticity of communication about the Conservancy in connection with Company’s accomplishing its mission of providing public recreation spaces and education, employment and vocational training to underserved youth in the City of Buffalo.
- Mutual benefit for the parties is the opportunity to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the parties, and to collect and share proprietary data on park features and trending improvements. And, if successful, the benefit of future restorative public amenities in each of South Park and Delaware Park which may combine and further sustain the missions of both nonprofits and their respective affiliations.
The memo also addresses the role between The City, and the two parties of interest.
“The primary responsibilities of the Company are to fully finance and contract with professionals who will perform and provide the requisite documentation, studies, public input, business plans, and future designs that will be presented to the Conservancy and the City of Buffalo for their consideration. As to responsible communications, the Company will collaborate on developing solicitation plans, and clearly state on its marketing/advertising/ fundraising materials that any funds solicited or collected by the Company for its initiatives do not directly benefit the Conservancy and are not considered a gift to the Conservancy. Furthermore, the Company will devote its best efforts to prevent donor confusion between Company and Conservancy independent fundraising efforts.”
The agreement on communications is as follows:
“The Company and Conservancy agree on developing a detailed post-signature communications plan that will be strictly adhered to as to content and message … There will be no independent outreach or audience given to the media by either party as a result of this MOU. Furthermore, as to other advertising (i.e. videos, commercials, etc.), the Conservancy will approve all scripts or messages in alleviating further donor confusion.”
“As stated in the MOU, we all agree that the Company is pursuing development of a public recreation amenity and public-educational facility on private land adjacent to a historic Olmsted park in South Buffalo,” Hunt said. “Our immediate goal is local funding to supplement further securing of funding from outside Buffalo for these amenities, and for planning documents requested by the city and Conservancy.”