The grand staircase to Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park hasn't been so grand for a while.
That's expected to change. The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy expects to begin restoring the granite stairs later this year. The stairs near Lincoln Parkway were installed around the time of the 1901 Pan-American Exposition.
The $700,000 restoration is expected to be completed in 2022, which will mark the 200th anniversary of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted's birth.
"It's one of the oldest original features in the park, so it has a lot of significance," said Stephanie Crockatt, the conservancy's executive director.
A $350,000 matching grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation will help fund the restoration, one of several projects this year throughout the Olmsted park system.
Reconstructing asphalt pathways began this week in Delaware Park's Rumsey Woods. Workers are at the same time exposing historic cobblestone gutters that line both sides of the pathway leading under the Ivy Bridge.
"We are unearthing this drainage system that's been buried under grass and muck and silt for the last few decades, and restoring them to their original design," said Greg Robinson, director of park administration.
It's the latest phase that began with the restoration of a shelter building at Rumsey and Delaware Avenue. That was followed by a reconstructed pathway from the shelter, adjacent to the Rumsey soccer field, leading to the bottom of Shakespeare Hill and Hoyt Lake.
The Wilson Foundation provided a matching grant of $171,700 for that project.
Martin Luther King Park is getting new paths, lighting, benches and safety upgrades.
Structural repairs have been made to the park's Lord & Burnham greenhouse, where 12,000 to 15,000 plants are grown every year for the Olmsted parks.
Renovations have also been made to interior spaces in the nearby comfort station, and to the roof on the potting shed. Still, more remains to be done: An engineering assessment revealed it will cost $5 million to make all of the necessary repairs to the greenhouse and comfort station in coming years.
"There's been a lot of deferred maintenance over the years," Robinson said.
The City of Buffalo is renovating the casino building at MLK Park to allow for a restaurant on the second floor. New pathways for delivery vehicles are being built on the basin side of the park.
At Cazenovia Park, an old asphalt pathway is being replaced at the top of the bank along the creek on the west side of the park.
On the West Side, Prospect Park is getting new pathways and benches.
"It was time to make a significant investment in that park because it hasn't had any, really, in decades," said Brian Dold, the conservancy's director of planning and advocacy.
The park system will also see updated park signs and more outdoor interpretive information beginning later in the year.
Crockatt said the parks saw a 40% increase in visitors during the pandemic, based on anecdotal information, the amount of trash collected and digital engagement.
That's also created a need for more volunteers, she said.
"Over this pandemic year, with more people out in the parks and keeping their health up, it has taken a toll on the parks," Crockatt said. "It's been harder to get groups together to help care for the parks. We are going to try to ramp that up this spring."
A new group, Young Professionals for Olmsted Parks, has begun with the conservancy's hope that it will lead to future involvement and support.
The conservancy is also still trying to balance people's outdoor needs with Covid-19 precautions.
Video programs are running daily on the website through May 2 showing the cherry blossoms at the Japanese Garden in order to reduce crowds gathering there.
Mark Sommer covers preservation, development, the waterfront, culture and more. He's also a former arts editor at The News.