In 1963, a 163-acre site was picked on McMillan Mesa just north of Cedar Road, and Buffalo Park was created on land acquired by the city in a trade with the Forest Service.
The city council approved a Chamber of Commerce proposal that a wildlife park be established there as a tourist attraction. It featured a small lake stocked with ducks and other waterfowl, and a few native animals such as elk. Eight buffalo arrived just in time for the April 1964 opening. A stagecoach took visitors through the park, where they could see the gentle buffalo grazing.
The park was intended to pay its own way through admission fees – 50 cents per car.
Record-breaking snows in the winter of 1967 – ’68 brought down some of the park’s fences, and animals were seen wandering through the north part of Flagstaff in search of food.
By 1969, when the five-year lease expired, expenses had exceeded revenues, the wildlife park was closed and the animals were removed.
The land where it stood, complete with a bronze buffalo statue, is now a crown jewel of the city’s park system, heavily used by a generation of citizens who walk its paths and wonder how it got its name.
Excerpts from Richard and Sherry Mangum’s book, Flagstaff, Past & Present, a rich pictorial history of Flagstaff, and from Platt Cline’s Mountain Town, Flagstaff’s First Century. Pick up a copy of either of these works to learn of the history of the many people, buildings and businesses that made Flagstaff what it is today.