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Field Trip: Buffalo’s Olmsted Parks

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A guest post by Katie Eggers Comeau, Architectural Historian at Bero Architecture, PLLC (Katie also serves on The Landmark Society’s Olmsted Subcommittee and the board of the National Association for Olmsted Parks)


In June, a delegation made up of members of the Olmsted Subcommittee, Landmark Society trustees, and interns from local planning and preservation organizations travelled to Buffalo to visit the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy and tour their park system, the first system in the nation designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., and an important inspiration for Rochester’s own Olmsted park system.  In addition to a fun outing, we hoped to learn from and be inspired by our neighbors to the west.  We got all that we came for and more.

The Conservancy began as an advocacy and fundraising group; in 2004 the group entered into a unique partnership with the City of Buffalo that gave the organization the responsibility for directly managing the system.  The Conservancy implements an ambitious range of projects, ranging from everyday maintenance to long-term restoration of the parks.

We were treated to an inspiring daylong tour of the parks, led in the morning by the Conservancy’s President and CEO, Thomas Herrera-Mishler, and in the afternoon by landscape architect Brian Dold.  We toured several parks to see recently completed projects, works in progress, and challenges and future projects.  We heard about the Conservancy’s active role in managing and promoting the parks, and learned about their successes and setbacks in ensuring that the Olmsted parks, so integrally woven into the city’s fabric, are appropriately celebrated and protected.

I asked the folks who were part of the trip to share what they took away from the trip: what most impressed them, what inspired them, what they would like to bring back to Rochester.  Here’s what they told me, accompanied by some photographs from the trip:

“What impressed me the most is the fact the Buffalo Olmsted Park System is managed by a private-public partnership, that seems to work mostly. The community is greatly involved in the management of the system.”

“I was impressed with the scope of their landscape management activities: Including vegetation management using some maintained meadow etc.”

 

“My favorite was seeing the ‘Buffalo Olmsted Conservancy’ logo on everything from trash cans to utility trucks. I long for that kind of PR power.”

“I admired their success in communicating their mission, from the meadow signs to the logos on equipment, id and uniforms for workers, facilities, their website, the brochures- a comprehensive PR approach.”

 

“We were struck by the attention to project level preservation- in the rehab of the lodge building in Martin Luther King Park, to the reuse of the wading pool in MLK.”

Above, at right, is the recently rehabilitated lodge at Martin Luther King Park.



The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is restoring this five acre Wading Pool at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.

 

“I was inspired by the varieties of community engagement- from the garden contest in the block facing MLK, to the partnership with the not-for-profit that built the rowboats on Delaware Park Lake.”

“I was amazed by the enormous scope of their vision- the $400 million dollar master plan, with a complete menu of projects for potential sponsors, which is in keeping with the scale of Olmsted’s vision for the park system.”

“Now that I have seen the System from the inside I would like to go back every 5 years to see what changes have been made and the story behind those changes.”

Thanks to the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Thomas Herrera-Mishler, and Brian Dold for their time!

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1 thought on “Field Trip: Buffalo’s Olmsted Parks”

  1. Glad everyone enjoyed their visit to Buffalo’s glorious Olmsted Parks, in the company of Buffalo’s rockin’ Olmsted Parks Conservancy!

    But about the idea of returning every 5 years to see what’s new: BIG. MISTAKE. There are changes and amazing new things to see EVERY year. Visit frequently, bike around, and see what’s what. A great way to keep up on the latest happenings in Buffalo’s Olmsted Parks is to check http://www.BuffaloRising.com every week or two. You’re almost guaranteed to see an article about something new in the parks. Also, almost certainly an article about a great new restaurant or cool event to check out while you’re in Buffalo!

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