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Andrew Jackson Downing Memorial Park

Landscape Management

Andrew Jackson Downing Memorial Park
Newburgh, New York

The thirty-acre Andrew Jackson Downing Memorial Park is a public treasure for Newburgh , New York . Deteriorated park conditions and the interest of a citizen group led to a series of planning reports carried out by Heritage Landscapes and funded by several grants. Designed in 1894 as a gift to Newburgh's citizens by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. and Calvert Vaux, the premier landscape architects of the nineteenth century, it is a tribute to Andrew Jackson Downing, the eminent horticulturist, shaper of American architectural and landscape architectural taste and native Newburgh citizen. John Charles Olmsted, stepson and Downing Vaux, son of the eminent Olmsted, Vaux & Company leaders, oversaw the detailing of the park design, construction, and planting. The park was dedicated July 4, 1897.

As the management of Downing Park was reviewed, the variable park conditions, structure of the Department of Public Works and citizen interest directed an investigation of alternatives in terms of responsibilities, skills and frequency of attention and a detailing of the needed landscape maintenance annual tasks. As in many parks limited attention to basic mowing and garbage removal were the focus. Few park programs and the absence of a comprehensive maintenance schedule addressing the care of trees and shrubs, walks, gutters, drainage elements and other features detracted from both the park's value as a historic and scenic designed landscape and from the visitor's experience of the park. The management plan includes models for six administrative functions: Maintenance Operations, Visitor Services, Safety and Security, Public/Private Partnership Initiatives, Long Range Planning, and Fiscal Responsibility and Fund Raising and recommendations for their application to the park. The management plan looked at historic park management, detailing its evolution from 1894 through the 1980s. Alternate park management approaches were investigated, and a management structure for the park was proposed. This management structure recommended the need for on-site administration. A three-year calendar for the park planning committee that included an administrative schedule and a program schedule was also developed. The recommendations empowered a strong non-profit citizen group that has reinvigorated Downing Park managing it more successfully in cooperation with the City of Newburgh. The approach addresses the enjoyment of park users while respecting its rich landscape history.

Downing Park Planning Committee, with the City of Newburgh, NY

Downing Park Planning Report series including Downing Park Management Plan: History, Alternates & Proposal, 1991

Project Credits:
Heritage Landscapes, Preservation Landscape Architects & Planners