Buffalo, NY - If you thought libraries were just for books, the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy has news for you. Thanks to a generous gift from Home Depot, the Conservancy will establish a tool lending library to assist park volunteers in cleanups, landscape improvements, and community tree plantings. Executive Director Deborah Ann Trimble says the library will serve a vital role in the Conservancy's volunteer programs: "The tool lending library will bring us closer to our goal of providing the public with resources to fulfill community-based projects."
These programs allow the community to participate directly in park improvements, and encourage responsibility and ownership in public parks.
The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is a not-for-profit, membership-based community organization that grew out of the Friends of Olmsted Parks, founded in 1978 to promote, restore and enhance the city's historic Olmsted park and parkway system, the first of its kind in the nation and only one of five remaining in the country, for current and future generations. The Conservancy operates within a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Buffalo. While the City manages and maintains the parks, this legal agreement gives the Conservancy the authority to fundraise for capital improvements and to provide community programming and volunteer opportunities. The Conservancy views parks as essential to the vitality, character and quality of life in a city, and strives to increase appreciation, build private investment, and encourage healthy use of the parks.
The tool lending library builds on the success of the Conservancy's Adopt-A-Park, Community Tree Planting, and Community Tree Care programs. Adopt-A-Park - a collaboration between the Conservancy, Buffalo Green Fund, Keep Western New York Beautiful and the City of Buffalo Parks Department - encourages residents, block clubs, garden clubs, community groups, schools, businesses and corporations, to commit to a nearby park, playground or greenspace, helping to keep it clean and well-maintained. Annually, the collective plans a massive community tree-planting day. On the last Saturday in April, upwards of 800 volunteers converge on the parks and plant 500 trees in four hours through the bare-root tree planting method. The planting day ends with a celebratory party in the park. To continue the stewardship of the newly planted trees, the Conservancy has instituted a Community Tree Care Program that strengthens volunteers' knowledge of tree planting and maintenance, and helps them to organize and train their own community groups.
Along with the tool lending library, which will be open to the public later this summer, these programs allow the community to participate directly in park improvements, and encourage responsibility and ownership in public parks. They also show immediate results in the form of cleaner parks with more trees and plantings. In turn, these park improvements boost the area's economy through increased property values and reduced energy costs. Research also shows a reduction in crime in areas where the community takes pride in the beauty of their surroundings.
"The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is reviving our parks as fun and vibrant community gathering places."
Hard data linked to parks helped the Conservancy draw support from corporations such as Home Depot, which will fund the tool library. Thanks to these kinds of innovative programs, the Conservancy is helping to create more community places in Buffalo, whose Olmsted Park and Parkway System weaves together virtually every urban neighborhood. The system comprises more than 75 percent of the City's parkland and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but, like many public parks throughout the U.S., it has slowly deteriorated due to shifts in government funding. Currently less than one percent of the City's overall budget is allocated for park maintenance, making the volunteer organization done by the Conservancy all the more important.
"In 1868, when Frederick Law Olmsted designed Buffalo's system of parks and parkways, he fostered the growth of Buffalo, united neighborhoods and laid at the community's doorsteps desirable open green spaces for recreation," says Trimble. "The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is restoring that vision and reviving our parks as fun and vibrant community gathering places." By reconnecting the Olmsted parks to the community, the Conservancy promotes pride in the parks and educates people about the value of urban green spaces.