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Delaware Park left muddy mess after Corporate Challenge

The cool, soggy spring mixed with nearly 14,000 people who took part in Thursday's J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge to leave behind the worst damage to Delaware Park in the race's 39-year history, a top parks official said.

The combination of hundreds of tents, thousands of participants and all of the vehicles used by vendors, security and the like caused at least $20,000 in damage to 60,000 square feet of parkland, though both figures are expected to rise once final calculations are made early this week, said Stephanie Crockatt, executive director of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

Typically cleanup is finished within a day of the race, but crews weren't expected to remove the last tents until 6 p.m. Saturday. The already-saturated park couldn't handle Thursday's pre-race rainstorm, nor the deluge that followed the race later that evening, Crockatt said, and there was standing water in some areas.

"It really is Mother Nature giving us a black eye," she said.

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Thousands upon thousands of footsteps and tire tracks from the vehicles that brought the tents out, ferried food to the tents and tried to remove them left large swaths of mud in their wake. The damage was centered on the northern section of the park near where Colvin Avenue runs into Meadow Drive.

Three holes of the golf course were affected – 14, 15 and 16 – with 15 and 16 still unplayable, Crockatt said.

The conservancy will have to regrade and reseed a section of park between the north tennis courts and a ballfield as well as holes 15 and 16. It will take about three weeks to roll and aerate this land and to prepare it for seeding, and a couple of weeks for the new grass to germinate, Crockatt said.

This area will be roped off and conservancy staff is asking for the public's patience. The golf course remains open but golfers can't use holes 15 and 16, she said.

Crockatt said this is not making the conservancy rethink its long-standing practice of hosting the Corporate Challenge.

"This is an anomaly," she said.

The conservancy is asking for donations to help cover the cost of the unexpected cleanup, as well as offers of assistance from companies. Visit www.bfloparks.org or call 838-1249 if you want to learn more.

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