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David Colligan: Arboretums are an Asset

By June 29, 2017No Comments


According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, an arboretum is defined as, “a place where trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific and educational purposes.”

South Park in fall (Photo credit: Eric Dacey)

The 155-acre South Park was originally designed in 1892-1894, by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, as an arboretum, with more than 2,000 types of trees, shrubs and plant life, and room for a large conservatory building, now home to the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens. Implementation of the arboretum plans commenced under the watchful eye of respected botanist Prof. John Cowell and although it was never fully realized, nearly 100 species of trees remain in the park from the original plan.

David J. Colligan, Partner at Colligan Law, LLP, in Buffalo, NY has a passion for trees and is working to help the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy create a better, more sustainable arboretum at South Park for the pleasure of future generations.

Sugar_Maple_Fall. Source:

Sugar Maple Tree

Mr. Colligan’s expertise in natural resource law has led him to learn maple syrup making.  He has self-educated himself on trees and forestry matters, and has fueled his passion for the arboretum.  In 2012 he brought together interested parties with the Conservancy in forming an initiative called the South Park Arboretum Restoration Project (SPARP), it was reinvigorated in 2016 with a formal feasibility study funded by the SPARP initiative.

What inspired you to start the arboretum project at South Park?
David: I have been involved as an arbor enthusiast for more than 15 years. Buffalo is known for its snow and cold winters and has many underappreciated green assets. I want to help enhance our city’s green assets.

Tulip Tree. Source:

Tulip Tree

Why are you passionate about trees? Why an arboretum?
David: I have studied trees and forestry and learned to produce maple syrup. I purchased land so that I could learn about trees and practice with them. They have become a passion.  As well, I was involved with conducting a city-wide tree survey in 2001 that informed creating a master plan for the City of Buffalo in 2003.

Why should others care about the South Park arboretum?
David: An arboretum is, and can be, a point of local pride for our community. South Park is a Zone 5A horticultural region containing woody plants from 48 states.  This is rare and unique to the entire United States. Olmsted was a great visionary and we inherited his long-term vision and project, to celebrate trees as trees for education and enjoyment.

What will this feature bring for the community?
David: This is going to create an entryway for children and future generations to become interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education, especially botany. It will also create a great outdoor space for parents and grandparents to share nature with children.”

Prunus serotina. Source:

A close-up of the Prunus serotina. It is commonly called black cherry or wild black cherry and is the largest and most important native cherry.

Prunus serotina tree. Source:

Prunus serotina tree

There is a feasibility study engaged for this project. What is the status?
David: In my personal view, beginning with a feasibility study it is taking shape in a positive manner. Community input is very valuable and helps this project to become a grassroots project.  The community is defining features of a plan and helping to craft and inform the future objectives.

What are your three favorite trees?
David: My three favorite trees include Tulip Trees, Cherry Trees, and Sugar Maple Trees.

The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy and their feasibility consultant Kyle Zick Landscape Architecture out of Boston, MA, aim to have the South Park arboretum study completed by the end of July 2017. The third public input session is being planned for July 11 at Tosh Collins Community Center. There is still time for you to get involved with this or other projects in our Olmsted parks. Contact Stephanie Crockatt, Executive Director of the Conservancy to learn about the various opportunities currently active in the Olmsted Park system to get involved.

SPARP Public Meeting on July 11, 2017

Photos sources (in order of appearance in article):
South Park in fall, photo credit: Eric Dacey
Sugar Maple tree
Tulip tree
Prunus Serotina tree
Prunus Serotina tree close-up