The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy (BOPC) has announced that it will enact roughly 42 capital improvement projects over the next five years (2020-2024), as part of its Plan for the 21st Century. “These are the projects that we want to accomplish and fundraise for,” said Brian Dold, BOPC Director of Planning & Advocacy. “We’ve laid out a robust community engagement plan, throughout five districts. Through a series of intense community meetings we have refined the top projects… our priority projects.”
After a year of community engagement, Olmsted has formed a Community Alliance, to keep everyone further engaged moving forward. BOPC held a Five-Year Plan Presentation earlier this week, to highlight its top tier priority projects, which varied significantly from park to park. Dold said that BOPC is rolling out a C.A.R.E.S. model (see inset) that addresses the fundamentals of the park system, including more benches, better access, recreation and pathways, environmental, historic, and ecological aspects, and addressing safety issues. The community has voiced that it wants the basics fixed, which BOPC is planning on implementing.
The preliminary proposed projects cost estimates break down as follows:
- Riverside District, $0.7 million
- West District, $1.4 million
- Delaware District, $3.4 million
- Martin Luther King Jr. District, $4.2 million
- South District; $8.5 million
- System-wide Studies, $0.8 million
“Thanks to our planning process this is a logical and responsive menu of projects identified by the communities these parks serve,” said Stephanie Crockatt, the Conservancy’s executive director. “We followed our mission while incorporating the question – ‘What would Olmsted do today?’ – to fruitful conclusions.”
“Our next steps, after finalizing the capital improvements list will be to hold several concurrent meetings with City of Buffalo departments and Common Council for their review and input as well as our final board approval,” said 2019 BOPC Board Chair Elizabeth McPhail. “Then it becomes a function of donor interest, fundraising and project management.”
“The extensive work on this plan has identified not only projects but the opinion of park users that maintenance and sustaining the investment is a priority,” said Crockatt. “The Conservancy is grateful to all who have been involved, shared, and given their time to this effort. Our staff has worked tirelessly to present a plan representative of Buffalo and one which will continue to incrementally position us for smart growth and responsive care for the foreseeable future.”
“All this planning and public input provided a road map, a way forward,” said board member James D. Newman, president of NOCO Energy Corp., and chair of the capital projects working group. “We have parks, we have projects and we will need money.”
BOPC will be hosting an initial beer social at Community Beer Works on Thursday, August 22, as a way to fulfill its intentions to keep the community engaged.
I spoke to Dold about some of BOPC’s priority projects, broken down park by park…
^ MLK Park’s big investment project will be the greenhouse – people are very interested in seeing it fixed up to the point where it can function as a learning center. Currently the greenhouse is in disrepair and remains out of the public eye. It’s important that the facility be used as a community asset.
^ West District: The goal moving forward is to fix up and open the long shuttered 1908 Prospect Concessions Building, which was designed by Esenwein & Johnson. This building has the potential to be a fantastic community space and concessions outpost.
^ South Park is the only major park without a playground. The community has voiced that it would like a playground. There is also a plan to address dredging problems with the lake. And the BOPC is in the early phases of restoring its arboretum.
^ The biggest issue with South District (Heacock, McKinley, Red Jacket Parkway) is safety. Residents have voiced that the lighting is poor, so the BOPC will be switching out the current lamp standards for a model that significantly lights up the park settings and the streets.
^ It’s back to the basics at Cazenovia Park. Residents are calling for their recreational facilities to be fixed up, from soccer fields to walking pathways. BOPC is also considering the future of the casino – the organization is assessing the highest and best use for the facility, as it serves the community.
^ BOPC is also addressing the recreational fields at Riverside Park. Another big fix is restoring the Niagara Overlook, which is currently a rusted out frame. Once restored, it will be an interpretive space overlooking the river. River Rock Gardens will also be improved, by addition more native plant species that will flourish better than the current plantings.
^ At Delaware Park (Meadow), the playground will be fixed, and a more naturalistic approach will be conducted when it comes to the landscape, which was Olmsted’s intention. There will be a more diverse and sustainable landscape, which stems from the desire to restore the core terrain attributes.
^ The lake side of Delaware Park (coined Gala Waters by Olmsted) will see the restoration of the granite staircase leading down to the water from Lincoln Parkway. The plan is to fully restore the 100 year old steps, which has become a favorite spot for wedding and prom photos. There will also be investments made at the historic boathouse (the casino).
^ As for the circles and parkways, the biggest problem is Gates Circle, which has fallen on hard times thanks to reckless drivers who continue to plow into it. Dold told me that the City is addressing ways to make the circle safer, which will go hand-in-hand with the restoration. It’s pointless to invest in restorations if the traffic pattern remains the same. Also, the lawn at Bidwell Park is taking a beating, which means that the BOPC will be addressing the issue with heavy maintenance so that visitors encounter grass, not mud, in the future.