An antidote to bad weather blues. A psychic, and literal, shot of vitamin D. A dash of hope, a new perspective, a renewal of faith in our City of Good Neighbors. All of this can be yours, if you just take a walk on the Ring Road in Delaware Park.
The jewel of our Frederick Law Olmsted Parks system sits smack in the middle of the city, and the Ring Road is on the eastern end, encircling a golf course (whose idea was that—not Mr. Olmsted’s, and yet it serves as a more democratic play space for urban athletes and duffers alike) is a good walk of 1.8 miles. Less than an hour likely, once around. Or you can run, or bike. The slow route is my choice—it gives me the chance to take in seasonal change, as well as carry on a conversation with walking companions.
I like to start at the junction of Nottingham Terrace and Meadow Road. Enter the Park there and head right, toward the Scajaquada Expressway. On your left is the Juicery, a seasonal refreshment stand returning this year. Walk past the bleachers, always forlorn in winter, but filled with spectators and benchwarmers once again. Notice there are plenty of people around you, appropriately spaced in the fresh air. Intrepid runners, like tropical birds in their rainbow-hued compression tights. Don’t be daunted by the ones who keep running past—didn’t I just see him? How did she get around so quickly? Just different missions motivating us, and the Ring Road accommodates all.
Here you see the traffic zipping past, and appreciate how nice it is to be in this safe place, perhaps a light breeze muffling sound and a birdsong accompanying your breathing. Nod hello to friendly strangers or stop for a quick exchange with old friends.
Dogs and their owners alike enjoy the Ring Road. I saw a pandemic puppy in training the other day—its exuberant leaping leash-pull reminded me of the painting “Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash” by Giacomo Balla, which you can check out at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum.
Speaking of dogs and art, round the bend as the Ring Road curves along Parkside Avenue and its array of comfortable homes, right across from the Parkside Lodge sign, observe the striking bronze statue on your left. Indian Hunter depicts a man clutching a bow and arrow with one hand, and the other on his hunting dog. What is this doing here? It is in fact a replica of a statue found in Central Park (mid-Park at 66th Street, if you find yourself in Manhattan). It was the first work which the American artist, John Quincy Adams Ward, contributed to Central Park. Dedicated in 1869, it is one of the oldest pieces of outdoor art on display in the Park. Ella Spencer Darr commissioned the replica for the City of Buffalo in memory of her husband Marcus M. Darr.
Keep walking, past the venerable Buffalo Zoo, which traces its history to 1870. Soon you will come to the enclosure for American Bison, (Bison bison, erroneously referred to as Buffalo—but that, and the likely unrelated naming of our fair city, is fodder for another story). Following the recent passing of the two elder bison, a youthful herd of the great hairy heavy-headed beasts now have reign over the enclosure that faces Ring Road. Former denizens of the Great Plains, I imagine they might prefer to roam over that great expanse of golf course they can see from their living quarters. In the throes of Buffalo Bills playoff fever earlier this year, I confess to taking their appearance as a sign. Every time they were out on game day, we won. One fateful game day, they were nowhere to be seen. You all know what happened next. I will give them another chance next year.
Next year things may be different, better we hope. In the meantime, I enjoy this walk for its history, and the soothing expanse of nature, the rhythm of repetition—like walking a benign and beautiful labyrinth. I love to see my fellow citizens, coming to a place where everyone feels at home, and welcoming the newcomers to town. Wherever you fit in, you will fit in on the Ring Road.