What Is Happening At The Park?
Read this week’s update to park neighbors and stakeholders here.
Below are updates we include in our monthly e-newsletter.
From Katie Campos, RWPC Executive Director, on October 20th, 2023:
I’m so grateful to share my front row seat of the transformation of Ralph Wilson Park with you. Over the past year, I’ve tried to learn as much as I can from you, our park neighbors, and from park leaders across the globe, so that together we can create a community-driven world-class park that is inclusive & fun.
Through weekly construction updates, we’ve learned together about the fascinating science and engineering that went into designing our new, resilient shoreline. We are transforming the hard, vertical, concrete sea wall to a natural, sloped armored shoreline to protect and sustain RalphWilson Park for generations to come. Follow along with us by signing up for our weekly construction updates.
From Katie Campos, RWPC Executive Director, on September 13th, 2023:
The park is buzzing! The splash pad, pool, skate park and football field were packed right up until the start of school. Our park is clearly beloved by so many neighbors; we’re working hard to build an even better park for you to enjoy!
Construction is also adding to the buzz! Crews have been building the sea wall and the inlet on the south end of the park. We are replacing the vertical, hard sea wall with an armored slope of marine rock.
As strong waves hit the cement seawall now it exacerbates the disturbance in the water. We are replacing that with armored slopes – very large stone with gaps in between. The wave energy will move through those openings and get dissipated instead of gaining force when reflected off the hard embankment.
What makes Ralph Wilson Park great is that it is and has always been deeply rooted in community. Our Community Working Group walked through the park last week and brainstormed ways to keep the park abuzz in every season. Teaser: we are going to host a park pop-IN! Stay tuned for the first date this fall. Our Heritage Engagement Blog below highlights the benefits this outdoor fun can bring us all! Please join us – sign up to be a part of the Community Working Group here or to volunteer here.
From Katie Campos, RWPC Executive Director, on August 9th, 2023:
The core of the park is officially closed for construction! The pool, splash pad, skate park and football field remain OPEN. The temporary dog park is open on the 4th Street side of the park (find directions here). Construction over the next few weeks will focus on fencing, demolition, installing environmental safety-measures, and beginning the shoreline work.
Safety is our number one priority and the public will not be able to access the construction site. As you can see from outside the gates, there is already massive construction equipment moving around the site.
We’re reusing everything we can! The City of Buffalo worked with the crews to sweep and reclaim any materials for reuse – bleachers, benches, fencing, even the granite curbing! And, of course, the dog bone bench which will be featured in the new dog park.
In the coming days and weeks, the construction team will begin excavating the shoreline near the sea plane and dredging for the inlet. Dredging involves excavation or “digging” of soil and rock that is below the water line.When construction takes place in the water, they put up a turbidity curtain to hold the water and sediment back, so it doesn’t disturb the lake. You can learn more about the shoreline and the inlet here.
The Shoreline Trail Detour signs will be in place next week. The Conservancy is putting up temporary signs at Erie and Lakefront Blvd on the south end of the park and by Porter and Niagara on the north side. We regret that there is a gap between when the park closed and when the official detour signs go up. We are sorry for the inconvenience and frustration this caused our bicyclist, walking and running neighbors. Thank you for your patience.
From Katie Campos, RWPC Executive Director, on July 10, 2023:
Construction fencing started going up at the park today, signaling the next big step in transforming Ralph Wilson Park. Over the coming weeks, we will wrap some of the fencing with student art work and images of what the park will look like after construction.
This morning, Andy Rabb (City of Buffalo Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Recreation) and I were joined by the Gilbane Construction team to provide an update on this phase of construction.
Fencing went up on the 4th Street side of the park first for the temporary dog park to ensure there was no disruption in access for all of our dog friends and their humans. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, you will see fencing go up throughout the park, heavy machinery like excavators being delivered, and Gilbane will start mobilizing barges and marine equipment to begin work on the shoreline.
Public safety remains our #1 priority. The core of park will be an active (and major!) construction zone with heavy machinery and materials moving around. While the core of the park will remain closed during construction, we hope you visit us at the splash pad, the pool, the skatepark, and the football fields throughout the summer!
From Katie Campos, RWPC Executive Director, on June 14, 2023:
The big question on everyone’s mind…when will construction get under way at Ralph Wilson Park? The answer…soon! The construction team, Gilbane is gearing up to start construction in the next month. You will see the construction fencing go up to signal that Gilbane is about to begin. We are working up some designs to put on the public-facing fencing to tell the story of how we got here and tap into the excitement about what the park will look like when it is complete. You’ll also notice lawn signs going up to let park users and neighbors know what to expect.
Last Monday our community celebrated the groundbreaking of the new Bills Stadium. Today, we celebrated the ribbon cutting at the Buffalo AKG. Within the month,
construction will start at Ralph Wilson Park. Not surprisingly, with three major infrastructure projects occurring at the same time, we are hitting the limit of construction crews available! This is problem we haven’t had in Buffalo in a few decades, and while the delays are frustrating, Buffalo is making a huge comeback, and we are incredibly excited to be a part of it.
You can check out what parts of the park will be closed to construction below. The pool, splash pad, skate park and football fields will remain open, as will a temporary dog park.
From Katie Campos, RWPC Executive Director, on April 6, 2023:
Construction on our park will begin in earnest this summer, and we want to make sure our community is aware of what is going on. We also want to share the cool science behind the park design decisions.
The park will be an active (and massive) construction site. Safety is of the utmost importance during this process, and we are working in partnership with the City of Buffalo to communicate what will be accessible and what will be closed off during construction. We want to keep everyone safe and informed while this major infrastructure project is underway.
Quite a bit of the park will still be open, and we hope you take advantage of it! The pool, splash pad, skatepark, football field and a temporary dog park will be open this summer. You’ll notice that the skatepark is actively being used, and we look forward to cooling off in the pool and splashpad this summer! In fact, we just rented the shelter by the splashpad to celebrate my kids 2nd birthday! You can rent a shelter through the City of Buffalo here.
It is important to note that one of the main drivers behind transforming the park is that it was deteriorating. Storms have become more intense with climate change– seiche events are more severe and much more of the park floods with each storm. Unfortunately, the blizzard this past December wreaked further damage on the park – leaving in its wake sinkholes six-feet in diameter and severely damaged paths and breaks in the guard rails along the sea wall.
Gilbane, the site Construction Manager, will begin its work this spring. The park will be a massive construction site, and much of it will be closed to ensure public safety — the park promenade and everything south of the football field parking lot will be closed to the public. Gilbane will be posting a detour for the Empire State/Shoreline Trail in the coming weeks, which we will share.
Over the next few weeks, Gilbane will be selecting companies to begin work on Phase 1 of the park. As their work schedules are confirmed, we will have a better sense of what that construction will look like, and we look forward to sharing that with you. We know that it is important for park users to understand what is going on, and we think the story behind the work is a fascinating one!
Phase One of Construction is Underway (from Feb 2023)
Phase one of construction began in 2022. The graphic below outlines the area of the park impacted during this phase. We anticipate this phase will be substantially complete by the end of 2024.
In addition to the site preparation and tree replacement process, the first phase will also include improvements to three baseball and softball fields, renovations to soccer fields, adding restrooms, and rehabilitating the inlet area to strengthen the shoreline and protect the park from higher lake levels and severe weather. There will also be a new pedestrian bridge across the I-190. The bridge will increase access to the park and waterfront and include new landscape landings.
The second phase of construction will begin concurrently, likely in late 2024. Many factors impact construction timing – we will continue to update the website with current status and information.