716 Transformers: The Park Planner

By Nancy J. Parisi

Published on

From her office high in the Seneca One tower in downtown Buffalo Katie Campos has a bird’s eye view of the massive construction project she’s charged with overseeing – the transformation of the 110-acre lakeside parcel once known as LaSalle Park into a state-of-the-art greenspace that will be called Ralph Wilson Park when it opens in 2025. Campos is the Ralph Wilson Park Conservancy’s first executive director, a position she appears to have been destined to take on. Growing up in the Elmwood Village, she spent much of her childhood going to LaSalle Park to play soccer and for other outings. “My dad would take us to the playgrounds at LaSalle, to soak up the sun, and to watch the sunset,” she says. Campos explains that the park has had different lives: it was once known as Sandy Town in Buffalo’s early years because it was a sandy, marshy area. When the Erie Canal was built in the 1820s, the excavated sediment was used to fill the marshland. Later it was called Centennial Park and was used for celebrations of Buffalo’s one-hundredth anniversary. Despite these significant changes over the course of its history, the park may be undergoing its most dramatic reinvention with the work currently underway. “It will be completely different,” Campos says, noting that once was flat parkland will have rolling hills up to 30 feet high in some places and what was once a cement seawall will have been transformed into a natural, sloped shoreline. “What excites me is building community around purposes and causes that best serve the interests of our community,” Campos says. “I see park spaces as civic commons, a third home for kids, after home and school.”

716 Tips

“Go to the waterfront and walk by the Erie Basin Marina and sit on the rock walls over there and just check out the view. If you’re needing a respite, or looking for inspiration, or are going on a date it’s perfect.”

Nancy J. Parisi headshot

Nancy J. Parisi

Nancy is a social documentation photographer based in Buffalo, NY.