Keeping Oak Hill Park beautiful and memorable for future generations

In this month’s blog Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation Executive Director Karen Niemic Buchheit writes about the recent work done at Oak Hill Park and the importance of beautifying and preserving our historic city parks.

I noticed recently while walking along 4th Street near Oak Hill Park that the day lilies have started to blossom beautifully, signaling that Spring is now in full bloom.

I have been spending more time in Oak Hill Park since the beginning of Spring when CRCF began facilitating improvements there again this year.

This gem in the middle of Olean – one of our city’s most gorgeous and historic parks – is again getting some TLC thanks to the Olean Parks Beautification Fund, established by Marianne Laine of Olean. As an endowed fund it is providing perpetual care; each year we have tried to stretch the grant dollars to cover more yardage to beautify the park.  This year, with some additional grant money from the Beautification Fund for Olean established by the late Mildred Milliman, contractors did extensive landscaping work on the hillside along 4th Street as well as on both sides of the entrance steps. After hours of raking, weeding and placing mulch on the steep incline, the hillside looks beautiful.

The landscaped hillside of Oak Hill Park along 4th Street.

Beyond the hillside, we brainstormed to see what else we could do to improve the park. Following discussions with the Olean Mayor William Aiello, new CRCF board member Mary Freeman helped coordinate a clean-up day at the park by contacting an Olean High School science teacher shortly before Earth Day in April.

Leah Graves’ JOBS class worked alongside students from Mrs. Brown’s advanced global studies and Mr. Sorenson’s advanced English classes to spruce up the park. Mayor Aiello supplied rakes, gloves and trash bags for the students to use. The Foundation provided pizza to reward the students for their work. It was great to see the enthusiasm of the students working together with pride to make this city park shine. I think they also learned a few things about how to plant flowers, with advice from city forester Sue Cooper.

One city dump truck full of sticks, leaves, debris and garbage later, coupled with some bright new flowers, the park had received a noticeable facelift from a group of hardworking students. And, they will be back again soon to plant more seasonal flowers.

OHS students and teachers hard at work on Oak Hill Park cleanup day.

Freshening up a park may not seem like the most important need in our city, but in the context of history and time it is most critical, especially as we continue to live busy, hectic lives that are sometimes overwhelmed by technology. We need to all stop and smell the roses, or the lilies, more often.

The naturalist and author John Muir aptly put it “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”

Places like Oak Hill Park also contain proud memories for so many in Olean. At our last foundation board meeting board member R. Dennis Casey, of the Casey, Halwig and Hartle Funeral Home, shared that he has a photo hanging in his office of his father’s graduating class on the steps to the park. We asked to see it ˗ and Dennis gave us permission to share here, too.

The OHS class of 1930 poses on the Oak Hill Park steps.

We are determined to make and keep Oak Hill Park beautiful and serene so that all of Olean, including the 2017 OHS graduating class and the 2027 graduating class and those beyond, can enjoy the park as a place to play, heal and give cheer just like Casey’s father and the class of 1930 did before them.

Want to learn more how you can help at Oak Hill Park? Contact me at the foundation: 716-301-2723 or [email protected].