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By Elizabeth Nichols

Now that outer harbor undeveloped land has been given to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., how it will be developed is vitally important to the future of our city and region. A recent Buffalo News editorial suggested we “challenge Cuomo to produce a park that will make him and Buffalo proud for decades to come.”

We have a unique opportunity to persuade our leaders to transform it into a water-related public destination with strong connections to our distinguished Olmsted Parks and the Niagara River Greenway. Incorporating Olmsted park concepts and dedicating the revitalized waterfront to Frederick Law Olmsted would celebrate and complete his original 1888 vision for a waterfront park on Lake Erie. Investment and leadership in creating a world-class waterfront park will redefine Buffalo as a true waterfront city, one where people choose to live, work and invest.

A primary objective of waterfront development should be to re-energize the region to deliver key economic and social benefits to enable us to compete with other cities for investment and jobs. Transforming our waterfront into a beautiful, sustainable public space will create economic growth in knowledge-based, creative jobs. Expenditures in design, engineering, environmental, scientific and technical service sectors, as well as finance, insurance and construction-related businesses, provide opportunities for skilled jobs.

The redesign of Fuhrmann Boulevard and Ohio Street and expanded water taxi service provide the necessary infrastructure to transform the outer harbor into an extraordinary public asset. In past studies the top priority of our citizens was public access. Access should not be defined by a narrow path along the water’s edge surrounded by high-rise residential or office buildings.

Olmsted said, “Buffalo owes its importance as a city to its position on Lake Erie.” The Niagara River Greenway proposes “creating a network of public spaces that attract and invite residents and tourists to a true waterfront city and region that values its natural, cultural, recreational, scenic and heritage resources.” A waterfront park with diverse public spaces furthering all of those natural attributes in addition to environmental and educational uses would significantly augment our waterfront and provide the connection between Lake Ontario, the Niagara River and Lake Erie as envisioned by the Greenway Commission.

Because Olmsted was the father of American park design, it would be a fitting tribute to complete his legacy in Western New York as we celebrate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service in 2016 and Olmsted’s 200th birthday in 2022 with a revitalized waterfront dedicated to Olmsted.

Elizabeth Nichols is a retired architect who has collaborated on proposals for a waterfront park on the outer harbor dedicated to Olmsted.