by Ann Baker, Friends and Neighbors of Seneca Park
The Friends and Neighbors of Seneca Park (FNSP) in Rochester, NY are struggling to protect a park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted that is currently threatened by expansion of the Seneca Park Zoo. Members of the volunteer group, part of an Alliance which includes the Landmark Society of Western New York and seven other organizations, have persistently lobbied county legislators, raised funds for public education, and written to editorial pages to keep their cause in the public eye. Protecting the park has become a high profile community debate with outspoken adherents arguing each side.
FNSP believes Monroe County can build adequately spacious and attractively landscaped exhibits for captive animals without putting the park’s indigenous animals, including aquatic populations, at risk. To this end, the group and others have offered alternatives for zoo expansion, some outside and others partially within the current park footprint.
As an unexpected dividend to the expansion debate, FNSP has developed a closer working relationship with the Monroe County Parks Department on issues unrelated to zoo expansion. The county’s stewardship of the park has improved. And finally, Monroe County citizens who were previously unaware of this historic landscape, or even of what an historic landscape might be, are now pleased to claim Seneca Park as part of their irreplaceable heritage.