Olmsted Parks: Can They Still Help Us Heal?


As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Fredrick Law Olmsted’s birth, Olmsted-designed parks in two New England cities are at the center of efforts to knit back together neighborhoods torn apart through systemic injustice and physical infrastructure. The North End of Hartford, Connecticut, is a high poverty community where the federal government partners with local leaders to increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities, leverage private investment, reduce violent crime, enhance public health, and address other community priorities. Keney Park, the 693-acre park designed by Olmsted, Olmsted, and Eliot in 1896, connects three neighborhoods and is central to their future health and sustainability.

This presentation will focus on the programming of two organizations working to improve the health of the community by using the spaces of the park for ecological education, food production, and healing. Buffalo, New York, is home to the nation’s first urban park system designed by Olmsted. Yet in the 1950s-60’s four major features of this system were impacted or lost due to the imposition of transportation needs. Neighborhoods and parks were divided, commercial corridors were vacated and health issues escalated with noise, pollution, and unsafe conditions, especially in communities of color. This presentation will track the quest to restore and reconnect these parks and parkways with appropriate, safe access, that returns the core Olmsted principles of respite, inclusion, and common ground for the greater good.


  • Understand opportunities to restore greenspace for transformational good, environmental health, and community economic sustainability
  • Understand the ways that park programming can improve food security in low socioeconomic status communities
  • Identify elements of park programming that promote racial and class equity


Anne “Dede” Neal Petri

President/CEO, National Association for Olmsted Parks

Jen Mergel

Project Lead and Curator, Olmsted Now

Stephanie Crockatt

Executive Director, Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy

Phil Birge-Liberman

Associate Professor in-Residence, University of Connecticut