THE BUFFALO OLMSTED PARKS CONSERVANCY HAS IMPLEMENTED A FIVE-YEAR PLAN AIMED AT SUSTAINING AND IMPROVING THE NETWORK OF PARKS ACROSS THE CITY.
The plan, which includes projects valued at $18 million to $25 million, follows a series of 15 meetings with more than 400 city residents, as well as nearly 1,200 responses to an online survey and input from the city of Buffalo, which owns the parks.
Stephanie Crockatt, executive director, said the plan is light on pie-in-the-sky projects, focusing instead on things asked for by park users.
“What we really tried to focus on were projects that either reduced our maintenance impact and would sustain the level of care we’re currently giving or that could derive revenue and help with new maintenance,” she said. “The public wasn’t really asking about gazebos or fancy things; it was more about can we make better what we have, can we improve or make enhancements and can we sustain that level of care.”
That’s somewhat in contrast to past plans, including a master plan launched in 2008 that recommended projects totaling nearly a half-billion dollars. That included $252.5 million for restoration of everything in the parks, parkways, circles and small spaces; and another $175.5 million in projects outside the parks such as connections and extensions.
The new plan covers the period of 2020-24 and prioritizes investments, allowing for potential funders to identify areas they like.
That could lead to additional projects and boost the dollar value of what gets completed, said Brian Dold, director of planning and advocacy for the conservancy.
“It gives guidance to funders so they can be doing what the community at large is hoping for,” he said.
The priority list takes into account cost, sustainability and what users would most like to see happen.
Also considered are the opportunity to generate revenue from concessions or products that could be poured back into park services.
“That popularity criteria was one of four criteria we used, but then we had to make some smart decisions,” Dold said. “We are thinking about what we learned in the last 10 years in terms of impact on operations. We need to be careful we’re not doing a popular project that would mean three more people to hire to maintain it.”
That’s what should have happened in 2008 with the master plan, which was later reimagined as a plan for the next century.
In the 10 years since its introduction, more than $60 million in projects were completed, including highway infrastructure work by the Department of Transportation.
The plan identifies systemwide projects such as benches, playgrounds and landscaping, as well as projects specific to individual parks. The conservancy is looking to develop fundraising campaigns that allow for funds to address both types.
“It will be up to donors then to help dictate where the priority projects fall in that agenda,” Crockatt said. “We’ll be working with the plan to identify what the appetite is in Buffalo for investments in the parks, and that will dictate a lot of what we bring to the table.”