Monday, November 5, 2012

Rochester's Central Park

One thing that I wished was different about Rochester's urban landscape is that there is not a large park wholly encompassed by the city. All of Rochester's large parks (Highland, Maplewood, Genesee Valley, Seneca, Cobbs Hill, Ontario Beach, and Durand Eastman) are either on the edge of the city's border or in an area surrounded on all sides by Irondequoit.

The map above shows the location of area parks. Notice none of the city's parks are located in the middle of the city, or in an area entirely encompassed by the city's urban landscape (there is a portion of Highland Park along Goodman St near Highland Ave that borders Brighton).

After living in Buffalo for a number of years and spending time at Delaware Park, I noticed Rochester lacked a park entirely encompassed by the city, and relatively centrally located. I wished Rochester had a similar park. 

The map above shows the location of parks in Buffalo. Delaware Park although not exactly centrally located is not located on the city's border and it is surrounded by urban neighborhoods.

A better example of course would be New York City's Central Park. Central Park is located in the center of Manhattan. Shown on the map below.

Admittedly, this is an issue of little importance, and hardly noteworthy. This community has more important things to worry about then having a central park. However, I realized when my wife and I were hiking through the gorge this autumn that Rochester does have a central park. In fact Rochester's central park is so big it runs from downtown to Charlotte. I'm talking of course about the Genesee River Gorge. Certainly, It doesn't have the pastoral beauty that Central Park, Delaware Park, and other parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The Genesee River Gorge has its own natural beauty mixed with the urban scenery surrounding it. The Genesee River Gorge is Rochester's central park. It is a "natural marvel unmatched in any other city." (City of Rochester - website). The Genesee River Gorge might be the most important feature of the community, certainly the most distinguishing geographic feature.

The Genesee Riverway Trail is a non-motorized trail system that runs along both sides of the river from the Canal to Lake Ontario. The trail provides scenic views of the river and the gorge, and connects parks along the river. There are, however, few areas in the gorge that are accessible to the public. 

Turning Point Park in Charlotte, the Lower Falls Overlook Park in Maplewood Park, and Seth Green are the main parks located in the gorge. Besides these three parks there are no other parks that are inside of gorge. Seneca Park also offers some access into the gorge, but is primarily at the top of the gorge. The parks that are in the gorge are all north of High Falls and Downtown. Rochester's central park is missing an element. It's missing a park where the gorge first emerges in the city. 

There is an underutilized area where the gorge begins that would be perfect for a park. This area should be made into a park. It would be the highlight of Rochester's central park. The park would span both sides of the river to the north and south of the Bausch Memorial Bridge. The west side of the park (south of the bridge) would be accessible via Falls St (and the restoring the northern section of Falls St that ends at Smith St). The east side of the park (north of the bridge) would be accessible via Suntru St. The two sides could be connected by the bridges at the top of the gorge, and by rebuilding the RG&E Foot Bridge, the remnants are still visible (the red line in the image below). The bridges above the area would compliment the park with the scenic views of the gorge and High Falls. The Riverway Trail would connect the park to other parks along the river.

View Genesee River Gorge Park in a larger map

The Genesee River Gorge, especially the proposed park near High Falls, is the centrally located park that the city wholly encompasses. The Genesee River Gorge is Rochester's central park. The river south of High Falls is great, but not as unique. The gorge is "a natural wonder inside the city." (City of Rochester - website). The gorge is what separates Rochester from other cities, its one of the things that makes Rochester unique. It should be celebrated and highlighted as a community asset. What better way than by opening land inside of it as parkland.