SOUTH BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Better Parks Buffalo has been fighting for seven years to create a space that the community can call their own. Organization leaders say they are getting closer to making that dream a reality, but need some help from Albany first.
The 188-acre space, just down the road from the Tesla Gigafactory, is currently owned by a state-created company and overseen by Empire State Development Corporation. Better Parks Buffalo would need Governor Kathy Hochul to lease the space to them.
Attorney Kevin Gaughan and other partners with Better Parks Buffalo call the space “perfect.” If you’re standing at the hillside entrance of the property, there’s a clear view of the city’s skyline. If you turn your head to the right, you can see the spinning waterfront windmills. If you stand on your tip-toes and you can see the mist of Niagara Falls.
While organizers wait to hear back from the Hochul’s office, weeds, brush, and miles of trees occupy the space.
Plans to have a park built at another South Buffalo location fell through last spring when the organization couldn’t raise enough money. This time they have someone to foot the bill.
“We’re fortunate enough to have a partner, a man named John Thorton, who has agreed to raise all the funds for this project with absolutely no contributions from Western New York,” said Kevin Gaughan, the chairman for Better Parks Buffalo.
Plans for this park include a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. In 2018, Gaughan brought The Golden Bear to the Queen City in support of the project. Reverend Mark Blue says this is one of the biggest draws. Not necessarily because of the sport or the name associated with the design, but because of the scholarship opportunities for kids in the area.
“We have a lot of talent here, and we need opportunities that can help us continue to grow,” said Reverend Mark Blue, President of NAACP’s Buffalo Chapter. “By being a financially and economically distressed area we need to look at the other areas besides just basketball and football.”
Plans for the proposed space also include an inclusive playground for children with disabilities and an education center for underserved areas.
Gaughan says they are “financially, emotionally, and spiritually” ready to break ground. They just need the stamp of approval from the governor.
News 4 has reached out to Governor Hochul’s office for comment regarding the proposed South Buffalo Park. We are still waiting to hear back.
Abby Fridmann is an anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in November 2020. See more of her work here.