OLEAN – June 7 was a tough day for children and parents who enjoy a playground in Olean’s Homer Hill area.
But city officials just received notification that that property had been transferred to a local business for development – and that the playground needed to be removed.
“The city has been advised to vacate their use of the land and remove our playground equipment,” reads a statement released by city officials.
“The city is cognizant of the needs for commercial development and certain time constraints the developer is under and wants to do everything possible to encourage small businesses in our City.
“Therefore, I (Olean Mayor Linda Witte) have agreed that the city will vacate the property immediately. We are also vigorously pursuing plans to develop another neighborhood park which will provide the same or better opportunities for recreation for the residents of this neighborhood and all members of our community.”
Members of the City Council heard from a couple residents of the neighborhood Tuesday night. Even with arrangements to move youth sports practices that had taken place at the old playground to a nearby park, the question on the minds of those parents was how such a thing could happen without more advanced knowledge.
One resident, Cari Brown, said the City Council should hold public meetings to garner neighborhood input as to what the residents want to see in a new park.
Another spoke out on the timing.
“Somebody had to know about this way before Friday (June 7),” said Michelle Perry, a resident who lives across the street from the park.
Members of the Council unanimously set aside $60,000 to find land for a new park and to purchase equipment. That gesture raised the ire of Perry as well.
“If you have $60,000 to spend on finding a new park and equipment, where was this money to buy the park instead of leasing it?” she said.
Witte expressed her displeasure with the situation.
“I agree with much of what is being said,” she said. “I don’t totally agree that it was something we had control over, but the buck stops with me. I think the public hearing is a good idea.
“I think we can find a piece of land, but a park will not be located until the land we pick is tested and approved.”
“I know how important it is to have a neighborhood park. You get attached to your parks. They are near and dear to your heart,” she concluded.