Physical changes are now visible in Ralph Wilson Park as the construction team begins to prepare the site for the first phase of construction. It is one of several phases included in the $110M project.
Questions about construction? Learn more here. Please direct all other questions to info@RWParkBuffalo.org and the project team will get back to you shortly.
Currently happening at the park: About 275 trees are being removed to allow for: shoreline reconfiguration which is necessary for flood protection, ADA accessibility, and significant changes in topography (think: hills). About 2,680 trees will be 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. WNY Land Conservancy 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.
Each piece of this project is designed to protect and improve the environment. Some of the trees will be used as part of a plan for submerged shoreline habitat, called a rootwad*, and the rest would be chipped up.
* a rootwad is a bank stabilization and aquatic habitat improvement strategy. It is a buried or a partially buried dead tree into the stream-bank with the root system still attached. This method improves the natural habitat and enhances the bank stability.
Many of the newly planted trees will be native species and will provide year-round seasonal enjoyment, shade, and ecological benefits to terrestrial and avian species.
The process will help reconfigure the shoreline to provide flood protection for the parkland and to create pathways that meet American Disability Act (ADA) standards. Residents will be able to continue to use the park during this process. The park’s design was created with the community’s help and input, and it celebrates the equity and diversity reflected in Buffalo and the surrounding community.
In addition to the site preparation and tree replacement process, the first phase, will also include improvements to three baseball fields, renovations to soccer fields, adding restrooms, 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 and include new landscape landings.
Once complete, the Ralph Wilson Park will be an interactive recreation space for both children and adults to enjoy. The park will feature a diverse assortment of native plant and tree species that will improve the lives of birds and other area wildlife.
The Western New York Land Conservancy was tasked with growing many of these plants from the ground up. The Land Conservancy received a grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to collect seeds from local native plants for this purpose. The organization will provide 50,000 plants, including trees, shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers that will be added to the park.
About Ralph Wilson Park
In 2018, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation made a lead commitment of $50 million to support the City of Buffalo and surrounding community to transform LaSalle Park into a world-class destination.
The Foundation provided added funding to launch the Imagine LaSalle initiative, a multi-year, community-driven effort to explore and develop a community vision for the park that would transform it into a world-class destination, serving neighbors and residents of Western New York as a “people’s park” while also attracting tourists to the region.
The University at Buffalo Regional Institute (UBRI) led the engagement effort in partnership with the Wilson Foundation, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, and City of Buffalo, represented by its Division of Parks and Recreation, Buffalo Urban Development Corporation (BUDC), Department of Community Services and Recreational Programming, and Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning.
Rooted in the guidance of “Imagine LaSalle,” the community-driven visioning process for the former LaSalle Park, Ralph Wilson Park will undergo a $110 million transformation into one of the most beautiful and inclusive public spaces in the country, serving nearby residents and visitors from across the region and beyond. The park’s name honors the legacy of the late entrepreneur, veteran, and philanthropist Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. It is estimated to be complete in late 2025. Renderings can be accessed here
About the Project Team
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), 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.
MVVA is also designing a “sister” Ralph Wilson Park on the Detroit Riverfront, the other geographic focus for the Wilson Foundation. 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. BUDC and Gardiner & Theobold are managing the entire project.
A team of diverse construction firms, led by Gilbane Building Company, will provide construction management services.
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 99-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.