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This story begins with Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision of new urban form -- of green space woven into a city fabric. When the city leaders brought Olmsted to Buffalo, NY in the 1860s to replicate the successful Central Park of NYC, he transcended the Central Park concept that he and Calvin Vaux had designed and implemented. Instead, he envisioned not a place, but a system -- a system of green that would be accessible to citizens throughout the city (Kowsky 1991). The Buffalo Park and Parkway System was Olmsted’s first experiment with bringing together a collection of spaces and uses from different points in the city, connected with his uniquely designed “ribbons of green.” The greenway concept proved to be hugely successful and Olmsted later transferred his ideas of parks and parkways to other cities all over the United States.

By the mid-20th century, however, the Buffalo parks were deteriorating, a victim of neglect, overuse, and suburbanization. Active sports and their facilities made incursions into parks Olmsted intended for more unstructured pursuits. Parts of parks, especially the greenways, were appropriated for automobile traffic. In response, a broad-based citizen’s movement organized itself to restore this urban treasure. In the 1970s, the Friends of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks were formed and in 1982, achieved recognition for the system on the National Register of Historic Places (O’Donnell 1979). This small grassroots organization grew in sophistication, competence, and fundraising capacity in parallel to the U.S. movement of cultural landscape preservation in general and the importance of Olmsted specifically. In 2004, the group, in their new capacity as the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, assumed management responsibility for the system.



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