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Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy receives $3 million Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation grant

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Tue, Aug 13th 2019 01:40 pm

Funding to support new 5-year capital projects, planning and operations 

The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy announced the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation awarded it a $3 million grant, supporting key initiatives for the City of Buffalo’s signature park system.

The grant is the latest of three recent announcements that collectively strengthen the conservancy’s long-term outlook, including approval of its five-year capital plan and successfully renewing a 12-year public-partnership agreement with Buffalo.

“Our new partnership agreement with the city is a huge accomplishment, and this incredible grant continues that surge of excitement,” said Board Chairwoman Elizabeth McPhail. “As a nonprofit that currently operates without an endowment, our goal via these funds is to inspire all of Western New York to continue investing in our mission, our historic green spaces, and our collective quality of life. We cannot thank the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation enough.”

The Wilson funds will be allocated over three years for specific areas of capital projects, planning and operational support. Capital projects will see $1.5 million earmarked as 1:1 matching funds to seed and leverage additional community and corporate support for key park improvements and revenue-generating opportunities; park operations will receive $900,000; and the remaining $600,000 will go toward continued studies, plan development and capacity.

“Thank you once again to the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation for its continuing commitment to the City of Buffalo and it residents,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said. “From the more than $100 million the foundation has earmarked for Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park, greenways and trails, funding to promote creative physical activity across our city, to today’s announcement of $3 million to support and enhance Buffalo’s Olmsted Parks, the foundation continues to ensure Ralph C. Wilson, Jr’s legacy as a true champion of the City of Buffalo.”

The conservancy previously received three smaller grants totaling nearly $100,000 from the Wilson Foundation and through its fund at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. Those grants have supported soccer field rehabilitations at Delaware Park and development of unstructured play kits for summer activities throughout the Olmsted park system.

“Frederick Law Olmsted understood 150 years ago, when he first toured Buffalo, that parks provide an opportunity to connect people and place. The historic Olmsted Parks and the entire City of Buffalo park system provide greenspace for thousands of people every day from across the city to walk, play, or simply connect with nature,” said David O. Egner, president and CEO, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “The strong collaboration between the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy and the City of Buffalo ensures that this opportunity will continue to exist for generations to come. We’re proud to support this work and help sustain what Olmsted described as the ‘best planned city in America.’ ”

The conservancy’s board of trustees recently voted to approve publication of a five-year update to its master plan. After nine months of community engagement and specific input, the plan was presented to the public on June 18. It calls for an estimated $19 million investment for improvements across the Olmsted system of parks and parkways. City representatives and Common Council members were involved in the process and have voiced support for the scope of planned projects.

“This grant is a game-changer. We are jumping with joy and appreciation over this generous and diverse pool of funding that will allow us to continue our community-based work for the Olmsted park system of Buffalo,” said Stephanie Crockatt, the conservancy’s executive director. “The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is a true community champion and partner, and leading gifts like this are exactly the impetus we need to leverage and sustain investments for our invaluable parks.”

In addition to the capital project support, funding for planning includes a fundraising feasibility study, a facilities and revenue-generation study, and a business modeling study, which includes a strategic planning update for the conservancy. Operational and maintenance allocations will go to further support the conservancy’s labor force, as well as equipment needs, in caring for the entire park system.

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