Nothing lasts forever, and the City of Buffalo is learning that lesson the hard way as officials try to find out why so-called “super-crack resistant” concrete in the $4.5 million basin at Martin Luther King Park, poured to last for 50 years, is already cracked.
Along with providing healthful benefits to the community, the project was meant to pay homage to Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision of the 520-foot-diameter basin as the focal point of what was first known as the Parade and later as Humboldt Park.
Fortunately, the damaged concrete hasn’t cracked the enthusiasm of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, community activists, city officials and BlueCross BlueShield. They have created a four-season feature that is on the verge of opening for public ice skating, if the weather cooperates.
Meanwhile, a quick recap on the concrete situation.
The stuff isn’t cheap. Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak told reporters back in May that the concrete, which hadn’t been used before in Western New York, was the most expensive part of the four-season water feature. It is one reason residents endured long delays before finally getting to use the splash pad over the summer.
For its innovative engineering, the company that produced a fiber used to reinforce the concrete won an award at the World of Concrete exposition for its work on the MLK project. Now, however, there is at least one crack more than 12 feet long in the concrete. There may be more, hidden beneath snow and ice.
The city is trying to solve the problem and is working with the project consultant to find out what, if anything, needs to be done. But fortunately it doesn’t seem to be slowing the planned winter outdoor activities, including ice skating.
A return to the freezing temperatures of early December will help that happen. The Olmsted Parks Conservancy is planning to offer free skating lessons and is collecting donations of ice skates of all sizes at the Parkside Lodge in Delaware Park to loan to skaters without charge.
BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York has pledged $100,000 for 10 years to promote healthy activities in the park. That money is helping to pay for the skating.
The crack is an unfortunate development, and those who have criticized the slow pace of work at the splash pad have reason to be frustrated. Those concerned residents should continue to keep the pressure on to make sure city officials follow through on the promise of the basin.
The usefulness of the park means a lot to a poor community that now has a place steeped in history in which to exercise and have fun. The basin will be the site for some of BlueCross BlueShield’s “Healthy Zone” programs to encourage exercise and healthy lifestyles. All we need now is some cold weather.