Until today, I had never walked the 1.06-mile trail around Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park. I had an interesting companion on my journey: an audio tour, sponsored by M&T Bank, explaining the significance of eight landmarks in the south section of the park. There are audio tours for the north or "meadow" section of the park, and for the Japanese Garden along the shore of Mirror Lake on the grounds of the Buffalo History Museum, as well.

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) is widely considered the father of American landscape architecture. In the 1860s, Olmsted designed Central Park in Manhattan and later, Prospect Park in Brooklyn. In 1869 he designed our own Delaware Park along with other parks and parkways throughout Buffalo. As I learned from my audio tour, Olmsted's vision for "Gala Waters," now Hoyt Lake, was to create a 20-acre body of water surrounded by natural beauty. He believed strongly in the need for picturesque recreation areas where people could escape the stress of urban life.

Every few feet along the path surrounding Hoyt Lake, there is another soothing vista. Multi-colored rowboats drift lazily in front of the Marcy Casino and create a sunny perch for great blue herons. In June, the hard-working Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy restored an electric fountain at the eastern end of the lake. The fountain, with its 60-foot plume, was added to Hoyt Lake in 1901 to enhance the nightly celebratory fireworks of the nearby Pan American Exposition, my audio tour guide informed me.

There are several public art installations near Hoyt Lake. The piece of art placed at the highest point in Delaware Park is the only one of its kind in the United States and one of only three in the world! It, too, was created especially for the Pan American Expo (Want to know which one it is? Check out the audio tour!)

I ended my walk at the Marcy Casino. I looked out over the lake and noticed the leaves beginning to change, and watched as one of the herons dove head first into the lake from his perch on a rowboat. We are so fortunate to have Olmsted's park system as a centerpiece of our city. No matter how stressful life can sometimes get, places like Hoyt Lake provide a welcome respite.