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$1 million gift will support dog park, entry garden at Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park

Centennial Park
Posted at 10:58 AM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 10:59:00-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced Tuesday a gift of $1 million from the trusts of Mr. Wilson's late daughters, Edith “Dee Dee” Wilson and Linda Bogdan.

The foundation has directed this gift be used to support projects in Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park in recognition of the two women.

“Ralph’s daughters held a very special place in his heart, and each bonded with him over their shared passions – which of course included the Buffalo Bills. Dee Dee and Linda also loved to play tennis, spend time outdoors, and enjoyed gardening. When identifying how to allocate this generous gift from their estate, we knew it would be most appropriate to honor these passions in a way that will live on through the park, along with sustaining these spaces and investing in future programing that community members can enjoy,” said Mary Wilson, life trustee and board chair, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.

The $1 million gift has been granted to the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation (BUDC) and will go towards two projects within the park: the dog park and an entry garden.

Dog Park: The “Barkyard” is the first official off-leash dog park in the city and attracts thousands of visitors each year. Throughout the Imagine LaSalle Initiative, the community and “Barkyard” users have been very engaged in the process and have welcomed the suggested design improvements. The design, created by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), proposes relocating the “Barkyard” and improving it by adding topography to create interest for dogs and their humans, incorporating a mixture of materials such as gravel and lawn, and adding ADA-accessible paths, benches, drinking fountains with dog bowls, and plantings for shade and comfort. Staff will work with partners for naming/recognition at this new dog park to recognize the generous gift on behalf of Edith and Linda.

Entry Garden: When parkgoers walk across the new, iconic pedestrian bridge over the I-190 designed by Schlaich Bergermann Partner, they will be met with an incredible view of Lake Erie and a beautiful garden designed by MVVA where the walking and biking paths come together. This place will provide a special moment in the park where park users can reflect.

Officials say the foundation has also recommended the donation of an estimated $300,000 a year from the daughters' endowed donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan to support the sustainability of the park.

“As the City of Buffalo and Imagine LaSallle project partners work to fund all of the components and sustainability for the parks’ master plan, we’re excited that through the Wilson family’s continued legacy of giving we can provide this additional support to help move closer towards fully realizing the community’s incredible vision for the park,” said David Egner, president & CEO, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.

The foundation will also honor the daughters by recommending an estimated donation of $125,000 annually to support youth tennis in the region.