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Olmsted conservancy receptive to Nicklaus-designed golf courses

Leaders of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy are expressing cautious interest in civic leader Kevin Gaughan’s proposal for Jack Nicklaus to create a new course near South Park.

But the leadership considers Gaughan’s proposal for the golf legend to redesign the Delaware Park golf course to be a lower priority.

At the same time, the conservancy has yet to discuss the proposal with the city, which owns the land.

“This is their property, and we need them to weigh in on this at some point,” said Stephanie Crockatt, executive director of the conservancy.

The conservancy has long been interested in restoring Frederick Law Olmsted’s plan for an arboretum at South Park. For that reason, the organization is most interested in relocating the South Park golf course to a brownfield on Hopkins Street, adjacent to the park, said Stephanie Crockatt, the executive director. The conservancy completed its own study for the site in 2014. Nicklaus has offered to build a 9-hole destination-caliber golf course there.

“The committee has been interested in the arboretum project since 2003,” Crockatt said. “The idea of the South Park golf relocation – and whether we can realize one of the Frederick Law Olmsted landscapes that was never put in the ground – piques their interest. That’s especially the case with the 150th anniversary of the parks coming on line in 2018.”

Gaughan’s proposal to redo the Delaware Park golf course would lead to more of the meadow being reclaimed for general park use. It also is in line with the conservancy’s master plan, adopted in 2008, to restore the meadow. The master plan calls for halving the number of golf holes in Delaware Park to nine, or even removing them entirely if a comparable golf course was nearby.

While sharing Gaughan’s goal for the course at Delaware, the conservancy still considers the Delaware Park proposal to be a lower priority, but is willing to consider it, Crockatt said.

Her comments came after Gaughan, along with Olmsted historian Francis Kowsky, recently shared his plan with the conservancy’s Long Range Planning Committee.

The conservancy requested financial and feasibility studies for both proposed golf courses and information on how much local or regional financial support would be anticipated for a project Gaughan has vowed to fund privately and on his plans to create a not-for-profit to lead the initative, Crockatt said.

The conservancy also asked to be on an advisory steering committee Gaughan is setting up.

Gaughan was invited to meet next month with the committee again, and also with the full board of trustees.

The plan has drawn considerable interest, Crockatt said.

“I must say we have had better attendance at our committee meetings thanks to this topic,” she said. “It’s getting a lot of attention.”

Some park adherents and Olmsted enthusiasts want to see the golf course – whose revenues help sustain conservancy operations, and is used disproportionately by people of color – removed from Delaware Park.

Gaughan, whose brother, Vincent, is an executive at Nicklaus Design, said he was encouraged by the committee’s reaction.

“I was thrilled with the trustees’ favorable response to each element of my plan,” Kevin Gaughan said.

Gaughan plans to bring to the Long Range Planning Committee John Reese, CEO of Nicklaus Design, based in North Palm Beach, Fla., and banker John Thornton, Gaughan’s fundraising partner who is a former president of Goldman Sachs and co-chairman of the Brookings Institution.

Gaughan also plans to schedule public meetings in September.

email: msommer@buffnews.com

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