By Joanne Kahn and Joan Bozer
We were very pleased to see that the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is giving careful consideration to the future use of its outer harbor land – the largest parcel of undeveloped urban waterfront land in the Northeast.
As advocates for a significant park with public access to Lake Erie, we see the park as a vital amenity in the emerging iconic district of our city, which will create a new identity for Buffalo. We view it as an enticement and attraction for young people to stay in, or move back to, our city – a quality-of-life enhancer that will also be an exciting catalyst for economic development.
This landmark park will connect more than 50 miles of greenways, bikeways and waterways stretching from Lake Ontario all the way to South Park Botanical Gardens and beyond. This park would replace a missing link in the Buffalo and Niagara River park system.
In 1888, Frederick Law Olmsted fought to create a lakefront park for Buffalo, but industrial interests won out. He wanted a lakefront park to connect our parks and parkways to Lake Erie. Olmsted wanted us “to annex the grandeur of Lake Erie” to our city.
We now have a second chance to do it. By using Olmsted’s effective design and conservation principles and a few of the creative design concepts that he planned for his lakefront park, we could complete his legacy and dedicate the park to him by 2016, the centennial of the National Park Service, which Olmsted helped found.
Olmsted, the founder of the profession of landscape architecture, is recognized as having done his finest work in Buffalo and Niagara Falls. It was said, “He died uncertain whether any of his creations would survive into the future” given the competition for the valuable tracts of land they occupied.
Indeed, Buffalo, more than most communities, has seen a number of significant losses to his park system, including the loss of Humboldt Parkway and losses of parts of Front Park, Riverside Park and Delaware Park due to expressway construction.
But elsewhere his worst fears haven’t been realized.
Instead, his creations have become centerpieces, points of pride for scores of communities across the country. Far from receding, Olmsted’s influence has only increased in the century since his death.
Incorporating his forward-thinking conservation principles, as well as some of his innovative design concepts in a new park on the waterfront, and dedicating this park to him will put Buffalo and Olmsted in the forefront of the new park movement under way in America.
The City of Buffalo, its residents and indeed the region deserve no less.
Joanne Kahn is coordinator of Citizens for a 21st Century Park on the Outer Harbor. Joan Bozer is a former Erie County legislator.