The park’s transformation is possible thanks to a lead gift from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to the City of Buffalo, as well as funding from make local, state, and federal partners. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) designed the park in collaboration with the City of Buffalo, Buffalo Urban Development Corporation (BUDC), the University at Buffalo Regional Institute (UBRI), and Imagine LaSalle project partners. Architecture and engineering firm schlaich bergermann partner (sbp) is leading the design and construction of the new pedestrian bridge. BUDC has hired Gardiner & Theobald for project management. A team of diverse construction firms, led by Gilbane Building Company, will provide construction management services.
The transformation of LaSalle Park into Ralph Wilson Park came about through a community-led process with significant investment in increasing access to green space & waterfront and environmental stability. Protecting and rehabilitating the shoreline is of utmost importance to all involved.
As construction began last fall, about 275 trees were removed to allow for shoreline reconfiguration which is necessary for flood protection; ADA accessibility; and changes in topography (think: hills). About 2,680 trees will planted as part of the park’s reconstruction. The WNY Land Conservancy is collecting seeds from local native plants and growing many of these plants from the ground up. They will provide 50,000 plants, including trees, shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers to the park. This tree replacement process will provide a greater ecologic benefit to our shoreline than what was there before.
The park has been deteriorating and we needed to re-grade it to protect against rising water levels, increasing storms, and weather events. The park has been battered by storms. The majority of the park floods during a storm, and if the park wasn’t being rebuilt into the community’s vision, it would likely continue to be underwater during storm events and further compromise the seawall and park.
There are two reasons for this: primarily, climate change. We are experiencing more frequent and intense storms. There are intense winds and waves that pick-up strength as they come from the west part of Lake Erie. Those winds are funneled into the park — our shoreline and Canada’s creates a funnel as the lake flows into the Niagara River and the park is in the bullseye.
The second reason is that the hard shoreline doesn’t absorb and dissipate the wave action, and the shallow water level of Lake Erie creates a bathtub effect that increases, rather than decreases, the waves.
To protect against flooding from increased weather events and rising water, we are creating a new, resilient shoreline; raising the elevation of the park near the shoreline (581’ closer to the shoreline); introducing changes in elevation (hills) up to 30 feet; and ensuring that the park will be ADA accessible, which it currently is not.
Once the park is completed, we will have planted about 2,680 new trees (approximately 5x the amount of trees removed) that will provide comfort through shade and wind protection and seasonal interest through flowering and fall colors to all visitors. Some of the removed trees will find a second life in the inlet area as rootwads and standing snags to enhance the new habitat being created.
The trees were removed in the early winter of 2022 as a way to protect the Northern Long Eared Bats, who were in hibernation elsewhere by that time. This was a requirement of the regulatory agencies to protect the species.
The design process is complete, but we welcome feedback during construction. To learn more about the multi-year community led process that led to the final design, visit the Imagine LaSalle website. Check out our FAQs and submit your question in the contact form. We have also posted responses to the questions we received after our May 9th community meeting here.
The total cost is $110M. The park is funded through many generous public and private partners, including the Ralph C. Wilson Jr., Foundation, federal agencies, New York State, the City of Buffalo, and other partners.
No! Ralph Wilson Park is a City of Buffalo park, and all City of Buffalo parks are free to enter. There is no entrance fee to the park and the majority of events will be free. There may be fees associated with some activities, such as kayak rentals.
The rest rooms at the pool building are open when the pool is open. Currently port-a-potties are located throughout the park. After construction, ADA-accessible rest rooms will be located in several comfort stations at key locations.