LITTLE VALLEY – More than 100 years after Gowanda first became home to one of the world’s largest glue manufacturers – and the contamination that came with it – reuse of that site as a park seems imminent.
The Peter Cooper factory, sitting on 26 acres along the rapids of Cattaraugus Creek, produced glue from animal byproducts from local tanneries. But the production of natural and synthetic adhesives from 1904 to 1976 resulted in toxic chemicals seeping into the land, making the creek an area more known for its smell than for rafting or trout fishing.
Now, after years of legal battles leading to clean-up funding and listing on the EPA’s Superfund list, reuse seems right around the corner.
Members of the Gowanda Area Redevelopment Corp. have unveiled plans for a gateway park that will offer plenty of space for a variety of users, members told the Cattaraugus County Agriculture and Tourism Committee last week.
According to corporation board member Michael Hutchinson, Cattaraugus Creek is listed as a top trout fishery, and fishing is a $6 billion industry in upstate New York. The waterway situated along one side of the proposed 26-acre park has also been designated as an inland waterway,
In addition to the fishing that can be done in the creek, some of the best whitewater rafting and kayaking in the region can be found not too far away. The park is a gateway to Zoar Valley, Hutchinson said.
The 26-acre park is not just for the water enthusiast, either, he told the members of the committee.
Ball fields would be constructed, as well as a hill that could be used for sledding in the winter. A meadow area would be maintained for picnics and the like, Hutchinson said.
In the center of the park, a gateway will lead to the water through a wooded area to one of two scenic overlooks of the creek. A second overlook would be outfitted with seating to be able to house concerts and other performances. The second overlook would be connected to a plaza containing tableaus educating visitors about the glue factory, Cattaraugus Creek and Zoar Valley.
“The park will sit right at the beginning of the Zoar Valley escarpment,” Hutchinson said. “This park holds the key and Gowanda can be a major player in the area.”
The park, with all of its offerings, Hutchinson said, will also take away the environmental stigma that has plagued Gowanda for many years, as well as increase property values.
It used to be that you could tell when you were in Gowanda because of the smell in some areas, he said, but that is no more. Cleanup efforts have eliminated the source of the odors and the site is well on its way to being a clean, enjoyable park, he said.
“We are not just building a park,” he said. “We are building a gateway to economic development.”