Author: Stephanie Crocat, Executive Director of Buffalo Omsted Conservative Parks
Who would have thought that the 2020 Buffalo Health Pandemic would illuminate the Buffalo Lamp as an “ah-ha moment,” why are parks and access to a healthy outdoor environment so absolutely essential? At the same time, the Second Humanitarian Crisis has commanded our focus on accountability, respect and ethics towards equality and diversity in life. Has fate already been on the move that 2020 will truly be a year of vigilance and a vision of health and humanity? And what will happen in the future when we imagine our urban infrastructure behind such extreme events?
As we summarize this series of important articles in the Skacuada Creek Corridor, Conservancy Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy shares its perspective on impact and opportunity. Buffalo’s Olmsted garden system consists of 24 historic attributes connected by neighborhoods and waterways, all designed for continuous public access.
Over the course of the 2020 crisis, your Olmsted parks saw an average 40% increase in usage, responding to the urgency of an open and clean space.
Over the course of the 2020 crisis, your Olmsted parks saw an average 40% increase in usage, responding to the urgency of an open and clean space. Roads were quieter and carbon emissions were reduced as more people traveled on foot and by bicycle. Boat activity and access to waterways, paths, and natural areas have increased demand. Families and neighbors were rehabilitated with home care, work, education, and porch conversations. These are all factors that make us think about our lives.
As Buffalo meditates on the possibilities, the Conservatory proudly recalls Mr. Olmsted and his famous vision of Buffalo. The principles of his design in 1868 were based on continuity for public health and inclusive social cooperation; space democracy. Either way, more than 150 years ago, he had a vision about Buffalo – today. He knew we needed these gardens and walkways. He knew that Buffalo would become a city within a garden, enhanced by a free public space. He knew that this first garden system of the nation and its green and connected properties would serve as the lungs of this great city, with healing mental and physical landscapes for hundreds of thousands of citizens.
Buffalo’s management has invested in the vision of Olmsted’s legacy, and that investment has seen everyone return because the quality of life of this park system exceeds expectations. It has also inspired more green connections with more than 140 additional city parks and neighborhoods that have evolved over time. As far back as 62 years ago, the community had failed Olmsted’s principle of connection by following the imperfect transport mentality that carving highways through the city was tantamount to quality of life. Buffalo’s residential highways may have been thought of as a modern solution or a breakthrough, but inadequate planning and costly decisions have left them unscathed. We have never seen, felt, and seen so much inequality and the damage it has done to our neighborhoods and gardens because they have been broken and damaged.
For those new to Buffalo, no one has designed the Delaware Park next to the Skacakuada-198 highway, and no one has designed the historic sidewalks on the side of a concrete hill overlooking the asphalt sea. Parks and neighborhoods were here first. Until 1959, Delaware Park offered a garden driveway as an entrance, not a highway, and Humboldt Parkway connected Delaware Park with MLK Jr Park with a beautiful quiet space and trees. Although these original Olmsted gardens, connected by road and roundabout (Agassiz) were separated decades ago, such a catastrophic loss can be overcome today and can be recognized as an achievement of the vision of modernization.
Inheritance review also broadens the lens on racial and social injustices found in Kensington-33. The atrocities that Kensington Highway has committed are at odds with Olmsted’s vision and Buffalo’s quality of life. Our coastal planes saw a fundamental human right to access a healthy outdoor environment while depriving six rows of trees on Olmsted’s major highways with six rows. The proposal to destroy Chapin Parkway Olmsted could have been met with outrage today, but where were the voices of call and justice for Humboldt Parkway’s rescue in the 1960s?
Supporting a new vision of Buffalo’s heritage infrastructure is worthwhile. Buffalo, despite the loss, is happy to be proud of one of Olmsted’s unique systems, which is relatively healthy. Our Olmsted gardens have won national and international awards and accolades. Delaware Park is listed as one Great space in America by the American Planning Association. The impressive collection of cultural and educational jewels in the Skyakuada Creek Corridor includes more than six major attractions and three universities. Every year, Delaware Park hosts more than 700 events, from youth sports leagues and family walks to Shakespeare’s performances at the Park. MLK Jr. Parks hosts many annual cultural festivals, such as the Juneteenth, and displays a 5-acre water-historical specimen that is intended as a seismic splash. Is this level of activity and achievement worth cutting the parka fabric? Don’t our neighbors and garden places deserve to be connected as they were designated?
Incidentally, in 2020, when Mr. Olmsted reached the age of 198, Skayakuada-198 and most of the health of this community remained in poor condition. It should be recalled that in early 2018, a community decision was made to discontinue plans to improve the NYSDOT highway as the proposed alternatives did not involve the public and did not address civic concerns or remaining negative impacts. At the end of 2019, the project was approved by the Governor to the Buffalo Niagara Falls Regional Transport Council (GBNRTC).
Negotiations with lawyers and local agencies have continued over the past 18 months, and as this series of articles has determined that GBNRTC is uniting our community for a broader dialogue. Stakeholders such as Conservancy, Waterkeeper, Restore Our Public Coalition (ROCC), GoBike and others in the Skyakwada Corridor Coalition (SCC) conducted vision exercises and SCC partners took the initiative and put graphic ideas into practice; ideas for starting a pictorial conversation in depicting opportunities for the corridor and our community.
When these conversations are revived, there are two significant and timely opportunities for strategic thinking. First, political will is involved by acknowledging mistakes and calling for serious investment for a reformed and better future from the local to the federal level. As management enhances this dialogue for the operation and financing of infrastructure, our commitment is to keep the Skajakuada Creek Corridor and its connections at the center and center. Second, and most favorably, is the national celebration of Mr. 200’s Olmstedminds birthday in 2022. All of Olmsted’s historic heritage sites, especially here in Buffalo, are on display. This nationwide celebration of Olmsted and his accomplishments is yet another opportunity for generational coordination to showcase our great city’s renewal efforts.
This nationwide celebration of Olmsted and his accomplishments is yet another opportunity for generational coordination to showcase our great city’s renewal efforts.
Restoring and safely rehabilitating our parks, paths and waterways with communities and cultural and educational assets can be an example of principle and progress for the world. Right now, we have a serious opportunity – with real resources at our disposal – to bring Buffalo together and heal the damage and separation, while achieving smarter and healthier alternatives to access and prosperity. Please join us to support the Skyakuada Creek Corridor, as we need each Buffalo to focus on their inner self – Olmsted – in a collective meeting about our vision of the importance of Buffalo and the proud future of their children.
Main image: Parkways system description of Soldiers – Photographer: Christopher Heather
This article is # 4 on the four-part Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper series – to watch the rest of the series:
Part 1: Return of the Squadron Creek Corridor | With Jill Jedlikka, executive director of Waterkeeper Buffalo Niagara
Part 2: Return of the Squadron Creek Corridor | With Bradley J. Small Bethel, Restore Our Community Coalition (ROCC)
Part 3: Rehabilitation of the Skyakuada Corridor to restore capacity | By Luke Madina and Justin Booth, GObike