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Another Voice: Collaborating on improvements in city's Olmsted parks makes sense

By Kevin Gaughan

In my nearly 30 years of civic work, I’ve learned that no purpose is served by responding to those who engage in personal attacks. But as Anne Harding Joyce’s recent article about my Olmsted parks plan includes inaccuracies and an impugning of my motives, I must answer.

More than three years ago, I approached the Parks Conservancy with my idea to have Jack Nicklaus redesign Delaware Park’s golf course, build a second public course next to South Park so we can fully restore Frederick Law Olmsted’s arboretum, and bind these new amenities with an inner-city youth education center. In June 2016, after two years of refining my plan, I brought it to the public and asked conservancy trustees to consider it.

In her article, Joyce describes a conservancy subcommittee meeting held on Sept. 7, 2016, to which I brought executives from Nicklaus Design. She claims that I have had no contact with the conservancy since then. That is not true. I met with the full board of conservancy trustees on Sept. 29, 2016, and with chairman Kevin Kelly three times in October and November 2016. I sent four extensive letters to the trustees in the year’s final months, and have had numerous phone conversations with Executive Director Stephanie Crockatt.

To paraphrase the late senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Joyce is entitled to her own opinion, but she’s not entitled to her own facts. A courtesy phone call to me or any of her colleagues would have led her to the truth.

As for my motives in this matter, which Joyce questions, I suppose they are not unlike her own in the admirable service she’s rendered her community. She believes in Western New York. As do I.

For three years, I’ve volunteered my time and expended personal resources to research our parks system, learn from Olmsted experts, travel the nation in search of project funds and meet numerous times with Jack Nicklaus and my fundraising partner, Brookings Institution Chairman John Thornton.

Joyce writes that, in support of their plan to partially restore the arboretum, David Colligan and Dick Griffin have performed comparable service, which I admire and respect.

But the question is not the amount of effort we’ve devoted to our separate proposals. The question is the merits of each. I believe my plan for full arboretum restoration, along with adding two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses and an education center, does more for our city. That’s why, in my recent letter to the conservancy, I respectfully requested that it support my plan and work together to bring these news amenities to Buffalo residents.

That’s also why I’ve asked to meet once again with the conservancy’s full board of trustees. I remain hopeful the board will grant me that conversation.

Kevin Gaughan is a Buffalo attorney and civic leader.

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