by Connie Oswald Stofko
The photos here give you a glimpse of the new Asian exhibits at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, but it’s something you really should experience in person.
The first thing you notice on entering the space is a new water feature, which creates a rhythmic pattern as it swirls the water. In the distance you can see the tall waterfall that has been transformed to look like a mountainous outcropping. To the left is the serene koi pond.
“It’s peaceful and relaxing,” said David Swarts, president/CEO of the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Society, Inc., at a press conference on Friday to introduce the new exhibits.
The idea was to create an area where visitors could experience both nature and the culture of Asia. It’s an opportunity to include exotic and unique plants that have never been at the Botanical Gardens before. They have been collecting plants that represent the range of botanical life found in an Asian rainforest, and they strive to ensure the survival of rare and unusual species often threatened in their natural habitat.
The construction project took 1 1/2 years to complete and cost $4.1 million. Erie County managed and funded the construction, providing $3.8 million. The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Society raised the funds to create and install the new exhibits.
Swarts noted that the Botanical Gardens is on the National Register of Historic Places. The project represents a commitment to preserve this architectural treasure as well the botanical treasures that it contains. The construction work literally went from the bottom up, including both the foundation and the dome.
“It provides the members of our community with a sense of pride,” Swarts said. “We all feel a sense of accomplishment and pride.”
A hundred years ago when the Botanical Gardens was envisioned, the people in our community said they wanted something grand, noted Erie County Executive Mark Polencarz. And a hundred years from now, he predicted, people who haven’t even been born yet will enjoy the work that has just been done by the people of our community.
The Botanical Gardens isn’t the only tourist attraction in the neighborhood, noted Lynne Dixon, Erie County legislator. Located just kitty-corner from the Botanical Gardens is Our Lady of Victor Basilica. It was founded by Father Nelson Baker, who is now being considered for canonization.
“When, not if, Father Baker becomes a saint,” Dixon said, “people from all over the world will come to this corridor.”
The Botanical Gardens is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $11 for adults, $10 for seniors (ages 62 and older), $9 for students (ages 13 and older with ID), $6 for children ages 3 – 12 and free for Botanical Gardens members and children 2 and under.
The Society received support from donors: Vincent L. Werdein and Mary Werdein; The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation; Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo; Chevalier Outdoor Living; Mr. James Cornell and Dr. Darci Cramer; Dore Landscape Associates; Mr. and Mrs. Robert Kogutek; Scranton’s Thruway Builders Supply; Mr. Paul Taylor and Ms. Jennifer Morrison-Taylor and The Reimagine Water Community; Unilock; Mr. and Mrs. Richard Penfold; Dr. and Mrs. Richard Dulski; Paul’s Organic Farm; Dr. Rita Maria Andaya; Mr. and Mrs. George Cameron; Ms. Diane Chrisman; Mr. Peter Heffley; Mr. and Mrs. Josh Jensen; Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Johnson; Ms. Elizabeth Conant; Mrs. Rose Ann Dulski; Ms. Kathleen Hurley; Mr. Rick Kazmierczak; Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Kruly; Dr. Steven Lakomy, and Ms. Cheryl Lyles.
Important partners in the exhibit creation include Telco Construction Inc.; Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect, PC; Chevalier Outdoor Living; Feijen Design Build; Masterson’s Garden Center; Dore Landscape Associates; Reimagine Water Community; Hadley Exhibits; Precision Signs & Labels Inc., and the Botanical Gardens’ staff and volunteers. The project would not have been possible without the support of Erie County, Erie County Executive Mark Polencarz, Erie County legislators, the board of directors, donors, members, visitors, staff and volunteers.
In 2004, the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Society, Inc., a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization, and Erie County formed a public/private partnership that would ensure the growth and long-term viability of the Botanical Gardens. Under the terms of that agreement, the Society takes full responsibility for day-to-day management of the conservatory and horticultural functions and the county is responsible for capital improvements.