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Patricia Barber: Delaware Park is a jewel in city’s crown

So our wonderful Delaware Park has been designated one of the Top 10 parks in the country! It’s No. 1 in my book, with the possible exception of another Frederick Law Olmsted masterpiece, New York City’s Central Park.

My husband and I have been walking on Delaware Park’s Ring Road for better than 30 years, and the benefits we’ve enjoyed have far surpassed the reason that got us started. When my husband’s doctor told him to choose between exercise and cholesterol-lowering pills, he chose exercise.

So we took evening walks around the neighborhood until we both tripped on uneven pavement and fell. Wisely, we then chose Ring Road for our walks, and so began a daily (weather- and travel schedules-permitting) morning routine that has enriched our lives beyond measure.

Early on we amused ourselves during our walks by giving other walkers names we considered appropriate to their looks: the Bookworm, the Judge, the Preacher, the Fire Plug, Sour Puss (whom we later discovered was a delightful lady) and Paul Bunyan.

We’re not the only ones who name other walkers – we’ve been told that we’re known as “The Old Cuties.”

We’ve watched the meadow progress from a sadly neglected space to what looks like a country club in the summer. We’ve seen trees that were planted years ago grown and filled with leaves that turn a beautiful red in the fall. We’ve seen lilac bushes, Queen Anne’s Lace and echinacea emerge little by little. We’ve seen baby bison in their pen in the spring and magnificent snow drifts in the winter – snow drifts that we were able to see because of the well-plowed and salted road.

We see walkers, runners, dog walkers, skate boarders, stroller pushers, roller bladers, bicyclers, scooters (or perhaps I should say scooterers), tennis players, frisbee throwers and kite flyers.

They are joined on Saturdays and Sundays by golfers, baseball players and soccer players, some so small that they have “Tim Bits” on their T-shirts. Rolling Joe’s coffee truck shows up on the weekends, too, to keep the spectators happy.

I wonder how much money has been raised for charity by the many fund-raising walks and runs that take place on Ring Road. Plenty, I’ll bet!

There has been just one misstep along the way: an attempt to celebrate the holiday season with the installation of hokey displays inherited from the Festival of Lights. Happily they didn’t last long.

The most recent enhancement that we eagerly watched materialize over the summer is the Meadow Cafe, whose owner did so much more than just set up shop in the existing small building. The surrounding area is beautifully landscaped, and handsome tables and Adirondack chairs are placed in an inviting space where one can enjoy a salad, a sandwich or a fruit drink, or just watch the passing parade.

So thank you, Buffalo. Thank you, Frederick Law Olmsted. Thank you, Olmsted Parks Conservancy. And thank you, Susan, Bob, Jim, Anne, Jonathan, Ansie, Sarah, Joe (who drove us home the day we lost our car keys), Ann, Dan, Kristan, Eli, Chris (also known, I’m told, as Bulldog) and so many others for making our park a real treasure.