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The restoration of Buffalo's Olmsted parks and parkways has gotten a major boost from the region's largest private foundation.

The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy received a $307,000 grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation, leaving the nonprofit conservancy just $180,000 short of the $655,000 it will need to complete its 20-year parks management and restoration plan. Before Oishei weighed in, the Olmsted group had raised $168,190.

When the master plan is in place, Frederick Law Olmsted's 19th century vision for the city's interconnecting parks and parkways will be restored, and they will once again become "vibrant community gathering places," predicted Deborah Ann Trimble, conservancy executive director.

Oishei was eager to help build a platform for the future care and management of "our treasured Olmsted parks system," said Thomas E. Baker, foundation president.

The award will fund the conservancy's design center, which is developing the plan, and such projects as the installation of historic pathways, signage and the creation of "no-mow" zones intended to enhance the variety of landscapes in the parks.

The grant will also support a series of public meetings on the plan, which will be modeled after one used to rehabilitate New York City's Central Park.

Several architects and architectural firms have been hired as direct employees or consultants in order to expedite the management and restoration road map, which the conservancy hopes to submit to the Erie County Legislature and Buffalo Common Council by September, Trimble said.

"It's a huge project; it takes a lot of teamwork," Trimble said.

In July, the 26-year-old conservancy signed an agreement with Erie County to operate and maintain Buffalo's Olmsted system, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the first not-for-profit group selected to oversee an American park system.

The conservancy aims to become the nation's top urban parks management organization.


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