Delaware Park holds a rich history beneath runners’ feet

Olivia Smith, Staff Writer

Ethan Smith doesn’t know a lot about the rich history of Delaware Park, but he does know it’s his favorite place to run.

“Running is tough, but Delaware is my favorite place to run,” the St. Francis High School senior and cross country runner said. “It’s a great atmosphere.”

Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed Delaware Park in 1868, about a decade after he helped design Central Park in New York City. While not as big, it offers a variety of recreational and fitness activities that many of its users come back for more than once.

The 350-acre park consists of meadow, forest and lake.

The park developed in the 1860s, and since then has only increased in popularity. Today, it is estimated that 250,000 people go to the park, with 2.5 million visits per year.

One of six of the Olmsted Parks in the Buffalo area, Delaware has a few unique features.

Much has been completed in restoration of the park in the past few years, including a new playground, Rumsey Woods, restoration of the Rose Garden, improvements to the Marcy Casino and new trees have been planted.
The park also has an 18-hole golf course and a Japanese Garden. A “Shakespeare in the Park” performance series is held in the summer months near the Rose Garden.

“Our largest attractions are definitely the Japanese and Rose gardens,” said Patty Martens, assistant to the executive director at Delaware Park.

Delaware also has running and biking routes on the trails through Rumsey Woods and on a 1.5-mile paved road that circles the golf course.

Several running groups take advantage of this course, including Kate Walsh, training program coordinator at Fleet Feet Sports Buffalo, and her group.

Fleet Feet has been in Buffalo for 13 years, and the company wanted to bring a healthy community together through group runs and walks.

“It’s a great opportunity for runners and walkers to meet new friends,” Walsh said.

Social runs are year-round, open to all and free; 30 to 100 people come for social runs on any given day.

Different mileage options are provided at the social runs to fit each person’s ability, including two, three or five-mile groupings on Mondays, and a two or four-mile group on Wednesday.

Walsh advises starting these runs with a great pair of sneakers.

“It’s hard not to just pick a pair off a shoe wall.  But there’s a science behind every running shoe and why it works for some people,” Walsh said.

After that, learning the running technique begins, but whether you’re just starting or run competitively, Delaware Park has both flat road and hill options.

Smith has been running the Delaware 5k course competitively for two years now. His team has several meets per year at the park.

Smith is from Springville, and wishes he could run in the park more often.

“I really like that Delaware is in the middle of the city. It’s nice to get off the sidewalks, and find a peaceful getaway and outlet for nature,” Smith said.

Smith isn’t the only one who favors Delaware Park.

Elizabeth Maguder, a sophomore at Damen, comes to Delaware Park for numerous activities.

“I started coming to the park when I ran races for the Immaculata Academy cross country team,” Maguder said, “But now I find myself there for picnics or just taking walks.”

Smith and Maguder said they could see themselves going to the park for years to come.

Delaware Park has plans for improvements for the spring season as well, to keep people coming back.

New self-guided mobile tours are now available, where visitors can learn about the history behind the park. Visitors can access the tours through their mobile device at

“We’re also unveiling new gardens near Hoyt Lake and the Japanese Garden,” Walsh said. “There’s always something to look forward to here.”

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