I recently participated in a fundraiser and bicycle tour with Brian Dold, Director of Planning and Advocacy for the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. The ride was sponsored by Rich Products, and we met at their parking lot on Niagara Street.
Brian covered a lot of ground during the course of our two-hour ride. We pedaled to Fort Porter, which is connected to Front Park Terrace, Columbus Park near Niagara Street, Days Park in Allentown, Symphony Circle, Colonial Circle, the Richardson Olmsted Complex, and Squaw Island Park in Riverside. The talk touched mostly on community history with brief references to the War of 1812, the Civil War, and World War I.
The two most significant urban and environmental revitalization developments respectively were at Fort Porter, and in Columbus Park.
A Victory for City Residents
The area where Fort Porter once stood— only the mantle of the building remains at the Bridge Authority Boardroom—was just reclaimed for public use after the Conservancy participated in a long, ten-year battle with the Department of Transportation. The 23 acres that were gobbled up by the Peace Bridge expansion and customs were finally returned. The park now occupies its original 48-acre lot. Dold looks forward to restoring the pedestrian entrance Gateway at Busti Avenue, and hopes to plant 44 trees along Porter Avenue, although that decision is facing opposition by neighborhood residents. Homeowners are concerned that more tree coverage will eliminate the clear line of sight that exists, allow undesirable individuals to wreak havoc on the neighborhood undetected, and spoil the view of the lake from their homes. Dold maintains that the initial Olmsted configuration had three lines of trees (and no crime), which Olmsted used to create opportunities for citizens to escape from the pollution caused by heavy industry, and the stresses and pressures of industrialization.
An Opportunity for Citizens to Improve the Environment
Columbus Park, which is nestled into one of Buffalo’s historically Italian neighborhoods, was donated to the City of Buffalo by Hiram Pratt, who built his wealth through a mercantile business and served as mayor of Buffalo from 1835 to 1836 and from 1839 to 1840. The area is divided into two parks, split by Niagara Street. One of the tallest Ash trees in the nation is diseased, which Dold said “will hit the suburbs even harder than the city." While it is too late for the Ash in Columbus Park to be saved, the Conservancy is making every effort to proactively inoculate trees throughout the city. The environmental benefits that trees offer include absorbing pollution that contributes to asthma, reducing the urban heat island effect and the buildup of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, purifying water, reducing flooding, and removing chemicals from waterways. Trees also make cities more sociable places, reduce residents' blood pressure, increase property values, and provide habitat for wildlife.
The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, a not-for-profit that is 60 percent community funded, maintains six parks: Cazenovia, Delaware, Front, Martin Luther King, Jr., Riverside, South Park. If you use these parks, and want to see them kept up and improved, it may be worth making a contribution. Look out for future events with the Conservancy.