by Shannon Traphagen
We all know that active, outdoor lifestyles contribute to leading healthier lives, and the Western New York region is fortunate to have access to the beautiful Olmsted park system. Believe it or not, Olmsted was the first urban park system ever designed in the United States, as a supportive outlet for healthy living. And access to natural scenery and park activities play a role in improving physical and mental health. Stephanie Crockatt, Executive Director of the Olmsted Parks and Conservancy says, “Our parks are invaluable as they represent quality of life enhancements for all residents and visitors.”
The Olmsted Parks Conservancy is a nonprofit organization tasked with operating the historic urban park system. As part of the Conservancy, Crockatt and her team, made up of a small staff and volunteers, are charged with raising 60% of their annual budget to maintain, operate, preserve and restore the parks. Crockatt says, “Many in the community don’t realize that private dollars are what keep the parks in such great shape, and that the city of Buffalo, through a special partnership, contributes the other 40%.”
First designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1868, the venue has grown into six major parks, seven parkways, and a handful of smaller pocket parks, which comprise 850 acres of historic green space. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With over 2.5 million visits a year, the parks are free to the public, and also serve our public-school system. “It’s important to allow free access to these parks, and we have many organizations that appreciate it. The parks host over 100 charitable runs and walks annually, which are vital and important to our community members,” says Crockatt.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average cost to acquire and build a basic urban park is roughly $1.5 million per acre. That means it could easily cost $1.2 billion to build a system of parks like Olmsted. Olmsted parks has 36 sports fields, including soccer, baseball and football, as well as 10 basketball courts, 29 tennis courts, one universal gym, and over 46 miles of park trails. It also features 12 picnic shelters, 8 playgrounds, 2 splash pads, and maintains three golf courses, and over 14,000 trees. “There is an incredible amount of work we do each day to keep the parks clean, accessible and beautiful,” says Crockatt, adding, “We are grateful to see the appreciation from the community for the work we do, including volunteer participation, and their financial support for these important efforts.”
The Conservancy offers annual memberships with local park partner perks, such as consumer discounts. Their goal this year is 300 new members, and they hold two major fundraisers each year—the Spring into Summer luncheon held at Kleinhans on May 9, 2017, and the Denim & Diamonds Gala at MLK Jr. Park on September September 9.
For more information on how to get involved, become a member, volunteer or support the Olmsted parks, please contact Jessica Juliano, at 716-838-1249 x22, or visit the Conservancy’s website at www.bfloparks.org.