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New park would benefit Buffalo, celebrate Olmsted

Opportunity is knocking on Buffalo's door a second time. In 1888, almost 125 years ago, Frederick Law Olmsted designed a lakefront park as part of our Olmsted Park System. When the city fathers favored an inland site, he was asked to redesign the park that became South Park.

"Citizens for a 21st Century Park on the Outer Harbor" are gathering momentum for a unique world-class modern park at the waterfront that would celebrate the relevance of Olmsted's forward-thinking design and conservation concepts in the revitalization of our waterfront.

The group has four main objectives: allowing public access to a soft edge at Lake Erie; connecting our greenways and bike paths from Lake Ontario through the Greenway Connector, Tifft Farm and to South Park; completing Olmsted's legacy by creating a lakefront park and dedicating it to him (the only public park in the country to do so); and using and promoting sustainable practices.

Quality-of-life amenities, such as beautiful parks, family recreation and public access to water, are riveting elements of work force retention and heritage eco-tourism. Buffalo has only 8.1 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents, whereas St. Paul, Minn. -- a comparable city -- has 14.1 acres for every 1,000 residents. Buffalo spends about $34 per resident on parks, while St. Paul spends approximately $200. Investing in a park is the lowest risk investment a community can make creating the broadest area of high-value development opportunities -- a multiplier effect.

The development of the outer harbor provides an opportunity for creating a world-class destination for our residents and tourists alike and would update our image as a leader in park design and renewable energy technologies, and as a forward-looking region in attracting new businesses and jobs.

Advocates for the park urge that the following guidelines be used for the entire waterfront campus:

*Assure continuous public access to and from the water's edge for lake-related uses.

*Dedicate the area as parkland to protect public access.

*Limit parking by providing alternative public transportation to the outer harbor to assure clean air for all.

*Establish building height limits to provide lake vistas throughout the park.

*Use renewable sources of energy to ensure sustainable development.

Olmsted wrote to Buffalo parks commissioners in January 1889 regarding a lakefront park: "Judging from the general drift of public opinion with reference to such matters, as I have had occasion to follow in other cities, the project of a lake shore park will be from time to time revived until, from regard to the interest of the city as a whole, it is adopted."

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Joanne Kahn is former chairwoman of Delaware Park Steering Committee. Joan Bozer is founding chairwoman of Buffalo Friends of Olmsted Parks.