Tongue in cheek, a recent writer threatened to sue Erie County for a "bloody nose" from a 1948 injury at Chestnut Ridge Park, and went on to comment on the $1 million proposal by the Erie County Parks Department to provide a smoother ride. Other writers have argued in favor of and against moving the Buffalo Zoo.
I would like to suggest that if the county has nothing better to do with $1 million -- or 4,000 truckloads of dirt -- it could be used to convert the zoo into a botanical garden and arboretum. Surely this would better serve our interests and needs.
At the recent Buffalo Garden Walk, I was very impressed by the number of smiling faces and the obvious enjoyment of the many visitors; the skill and ingenuity of local gardeners; the generosity and hospitality of the host gardeners; and, not least of all, the spirit of goodwill that it created for the city, to say nothing of the attractiveness of the gardens.
When the conversion of the zoo was suggested to some of the gardeners, I was surprised by the response. Many advantages of the site for that purpose were mentioned in quick succession -- availability of water, fertilizer, man-made rock formations, existing trees and herbaceous materials, historic interest, location and buildings that could be converted to an aviary, a butterfly house or a conservatory.
These functions would relate to gardening and complement, but not duplicate, those in South Park or at the relocated zoo.
Given the gastronomical diversity of Western New York, it would not be hard to imagine the possibilities of some of the existing buildings for restaurants: The Palm House, The Bengal Tiger Room, The Mark Twain, Adam & Eve's, etc.
Also, entrepreneurial possibilities would exist for a garden shop, florists, a nature store, an inn, guest houses, a gallery of botanical prints and a bookstore.
A garden would be attractive, enjoyable and an asset to the community. If it is possible to re-create a Frank Lloyd Wright boathouse from his previously unused plans, could we not build a teahouse or garden pavilion?
Given the proximity of the Darwin Martin House, this would also make the gardens of interest to visitors with architectural interests.