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Another Voice: Conservancy has a plan to restore South Park

By David Colligan

A recent editorial challenged the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy to speed up its efforts to support Jack Nicklaus’ and Kevin Gaughan’s plan to upgrade the golf courses in Delaware Park and South Park’s Arboretum. I want to chronicle how since 2003 the conservancy has set the stage for Kevin Gaughan to succeed in his plans.

In 2003 I was given the opportunity to edit a walking tour of the South Park Arboretum written by the late Bruce Kerschner and his daughter Libby. The book contains a map identifying 76 different species of trees that can be viewed from the Ring Road. The conservancy published that book in 2003 and a second publication occurred in 2016.

In 2008 the conservancy published the 21st century plan for restoration of the Olmsted Parks and identified the restoration of the South Park Arboretum as that park’s number one priority project. Subsequent to that, the conservancy was responsible for engaging the South Buffalo Brownfield Opportunity Area in selecting relocation of the golf course as one of two followup studies to be conducted.

In 2014 this golf course relocation feasibility study was published, which should greatly assist Kevin Gaughan in his efforts.

That study identified the high cost of moving the golf course and the need to create a new public entity to manage and run the golf course. The conservancy’s mission is restricted to maintenance and restoration within the Olmsted parks and it could not act, as Kevin can, outside the parks to build new golf courses. Kevin has a huge head start on his project thanks to the conservancy.

The conservancy did not stop there. In early 2016 it formed the South Park Arboretum Restoration Project committee to fundraise and plan properly for a restorative effort.

From the beginning the committee planned to restore the arboretum with or without the golf course there. KZLA from Boston was hired to prepare a plan that would restore the arboretum with or without the golf course there. As explained at the public meeting held July 11, the plan is close to being published and contains an 11-phase restoration that will raise the arboretum’s ranking from a level one arboretum to the highest level – four!

The first six phases can be done with the golf course there. The next five phases can only be accomplished if the golf course is moved.

The conservancy has done Kevin Gaughan a great service. If he can get the golf course moved he will be halfway to reaching the highest level an arboretum can be ranked and would support the goal of having a world-class destination arboretum. That is our shared goal and our shared vision.

David Colligan has been involved with the restoration of the South Park Arboretum as a board member of Olmsted Parks Conservancy for 10 years, and since that time has served as a committee member of the South Park Arboretum Restoration Project.

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