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Ralph Wilson Park Conservancy Launches National Search for Executive Director

An artist's concept of the Great Lawn in springtime.

Not-for-profit seeks leadership position to manage development, operations, and community collaboration of Ralph Wilson Park

Buffalo, NY (June 22, 2022) – The Ralph Wilson Park Conservancy announced today that it is commencing a search for an inaugural executive director to oversee the new Ralph Wilson Park, the former LaSalle Park in downtown Buffalo, New York.

“We are pleased to announce a nationwide search for an executive director who will build and lead the team to maintain, operate, program, and market the new Ralph Wilson Park. The candidate selected will benefit from leveraging relationships with the City of Buffalo and community members who have played key roles in shaping the project,” said Keith Belanger, Ralph Wilson Park Conservancy Board President. “Qualified individuals with experience in urban park management, community engagement, and a philanthropic background are encouraged to apply. The ideal candidate will support our Board of Directors, business leaders, and community members committed to delivering a world-class greenspace with waterfront access for our community.” 

Koya Partners, the executive search firm that specializes in leading mission-driven searches at the senior level, is leading the search. If you are interested in the opportunity, or would like to recommend a potential candidate, you can reach the Koya search team at  

A Community-Driven Initiative

The Ralph Wilson Park Conservancy is the not-for-profit organization working in partnership with the City of Buffalo and the community to transform the former LaSalle Park into Ralph Wilson Park, a 90+ acre waterfront destination located on the shoreline of Lake Erie. 

The $110 million design and development of Ralph Wilson Park began in 2018 with a lead gift from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to the City of Buffalo. Imagine LaSalle was the multi-year, community-driven effort to transform the park into a world-class destination that will serve the nearby neighbors and residents of Western New York as a “people’s park” and also attract tourists to the region. Thousands of partners, community members, and stakeholders have been involved in the planning and designing of this signature, year-round attraction.

This process was made possible through the generosity of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, with support from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and the City of Buffalo. The University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning and one of its research centers, the UB Regional Institute (UBRI), has managed the engagement process to ensure broad and meaningful community input in shaping the park’s future. The City of Buffalo is an active project partner represented by its Division of Parks and Recreation, the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation (BUDC), the Department of Community Services and Recreational Programming, and the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, a New York-based landscape architecture firm known worldwide for its creative and unique urban design, has designed the park in collaboration with the City of Buffalo, BUDC, 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 spanning the I-190, connecting Ralph Wilson Park with surrounding neighborhoods. 

The park will be built in phases over a three to four-year period. Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2022, starting with a signature pedestrian bridge giving park-goers easier access to the park, updating several of the baseball and softball fields, and rehabilitating a resilient shoreline to protect the park from higher lake levels and severe weather.

Community Leadership

The Ralph Wilson Park Conservancy Board of Directors is made up of representatives from the City of Buffalo and other civic leaders, local community members, and representatives from the philanthropic and corporate community.

As a complement to the Board and its committees, the Conservancy is establishing a Community Working Group, an evolution of the Imagine LaSalle Focus Group, to ensure that community involvement remains a key strength for the reimagined park. Community members interested in becoming involved in this group should contact

“Our Conservancy management structure is focused on making sure the park’s users and community members have a voice in its physical and program offerings while working closely with our elected officials and board members,” added Belanger. “The executive director will take to heart our vision and values that ensure inclusiveness, sustainability, and a commitment to growing and improving healthy opportunities and a safe environment for everyone to enjoy.” 

Board officers include Keith Belanger, M&T Bank (President); Marnetta Malcolm, Buffalo Funk Fest (Vice President); JJ Tighe, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation (Secretary); Charles Torres, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Day Parade of WNY (Treasurer). Directors include Barbara Danner, Freed Maxick; Douglas Jemal, Douglas Development; Brendan Mehaffy, City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning; Chiwuike Owunwanne, KeyBank; Rev. Darius Pridgen, City of Buffalo Common Council; Lawrence Quinn; Andy Rabb, City of Buffalo Division of Parks & Recreation. New York State Governor Kathy Hochul will select an additional director.

For more information about the Conservancy, visit The Conservancy Executive Director job description will be posted online later this month.

About the Ralph Wilson Park Conservancy

The Ralph Wilson Park Conservancy is the not-for-profit organization created to work in partnership with the City of Buffalo to operate, maintain, and promote the public use of Ralph Wilson Park, a 90+ acre park located on the shoreline of Lake Erie within the City of Buffalo. Established in 2021, the Conservancy is committed to reflecting the priorities laid out through the Imagine LaSalle public engagement process and establishing the framework by which the park will be operated and maintained, with a continued focus on input from the community it serves. 

The Conservancy will work closely with the local community and the City of Buffalo Parks Department, taking on responsibilities such as enhanced park maintenance, non-structural improvements, turf maintenance, horticulture, furnishing, events and programming, concessions, marketing, and branding. 

Media Contact:

Joshua Gregory, The Martin Group – | 716-507-6992