WHEN THE BUFFALO OLMSTED PARKS CONSERVANCY WAS CITED LAST SUMMER BY AN INTERNATIONAL PUBLICATION — “THE GUARDIAN” — IN AN ONLINE LISTING OF THE WORLD’S BEST PARKS, OFFICIALS KNEW IT WOULD HELP ATTRACT TOURISTS TO THE REGION TO CHECK OUT THE FAMOUS PARKS SYSTEM.
The same thing happened a few years ago after the American Planning Association named the Olmsted Parks among its Great Places in America in 2014.
“We saw a definite increase in visitors from outside the area,” said Stephanie Crockatt, conservancy executive director.
Indeed, parks staffers regularly field questions from out-of-town visitors about Delaware Park and the rest of the 850-acre citywide system of parks, parkways designed by Frederick Law Olmsted as the nation’s first urban park system.
The parks piloted the first tour last fall about Delaware Park, sponsored by M&T Bank, Crockatt said.
“We had it out there for just four weeks and had almost 1200 listens,” she said. “If someone’s listening and had it on speaker, it could be exponentially more people.”
Guided by signage around the parks, the mobile program points users to a website where they’ll use a code to access the specific audio narration.
The program was designed and developed by Buffalo native Ken Kozaczka, creator of the Tourwand site, with narrations researched and written by volunteer archivist, Jim Mendola, audio production by Lemur Studios and narrations recorded by Linda Pellegrino of WKBW-TV’s AM Buffalo.
Signs advertising the audio tour came down for the winter, but will be back up this month, along with audio tours at two other sites.
Identifying sponsors for each leg of the tour is vital: The nonprofit conservancy relies on sponsor support to maintain a budget of $3.4 million while hosting 2.5 million visits each year, as well as more than 1,600 events.
Another version will be offered by a live tour operator for bike riders following the same route, as well as Burchfield Penney Art Center, the Richardson Olmsted Complex and over Niagara Street to the Jesse Kriegel Trail along the Scajaquada Expressway.
The bike tour is available at $10 per person, or $5 for Olmsted Parks members. Crockatt hopes both efforts will translate into even more visitors and a better understanding of how valuable the park system remains.
“We want Buffalo to take as much pride as we do in our parks,” she said. “This is Olmsted’s masterpiece and these are the treasured jewels in the crown.”
(Areas that are in italic have been modified from the original article by the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.)
Tracey Drury covers health/medical, nonprofits and insurance