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Another Voice: Olmsted Parks Conservancy takes a victory lap

By Stephanie Crockatt

What started out last January as a yearlong awareness effort and 150th celebration of our Olmsted parks has concluded with a trumpet of triumph, a few pink flamingos and applause for the future. But what does that future hold?

An uptrend in park valuations nationwide indicates that now more than ever parks and green space are essential to quality of life, community health and economic prosperity.

In Buffalo we’re fortunate enough to essentially have two park systems, the slightly smaller of which holds prominence historically as the first urban park system designed in the nation. Buffalo is also fortunate to have a unique public-private management partnership with a talented nonprofit parks conservancy. Not every city can boast such assets.

Unlike other municipalities, Buffalo protected the majority of its historic park system from decades of bad decisions, abandonment and consumption. Since 1978, thanks to passionate champions like Joan Bozer and Gretchen Toles the Conservancy was formed, Buffalo’s Olmsted parks are now on the National Register, and improvements continue.

There are few who remember the darker days of trash, graffiti, pollution and destitution, where safety and access languished. Thankfully, much has been accomplished on account of astute political leadership, and a dedicated conservancy fundraising, advocating and rolling up its sleeves along with key corporations, contributors and stakeholders.

Consider the quality and care of our parks today with the transformation of the Marcy Casino and lake promenade, the rehabilitation of the Humboldt basin for splashing and skating, the beauty and tranquility of the restored rose garden pergola, tree care in the wake of storms and infestation, several renovated comfort stations and restrooms, the circles replanted, and the return of historic parkland once paved over.

Most of these investments and endeavors have happened in the last decade.

Today your Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is actively soliciting public input on new capital project priorities for park enhancements, so what exciting opportunities lie ahead?

As millions of eyes from around the world continue to look upon the many accolades being bestowed on Buffalo, the Olmsted Conservancy is honored to be the responsible green steward.

With the fact that more people now live in urban settings than rural, having this ribbon of historic green space connecting us all is truly unique – and critically valuable – for the vitality and equity of all residents. What we have accomplished together, let us together strive to sustain.

Stephanie Crockatt is executive director of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

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