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OLEAN – What does Cattaraugus County have to offer? What are its strengths and weaknesses? Where can the county be in five, 10 years? Those were the questions posed to a room full of residents in the Magnano Room of Jamestown Community College’s Cutco Theater in Olean on Tuesday night.

The questions were asked to help Wendel Companies of Buffalo figure out what a comprehensive plan for Cattaraugus County should look like. For those in the Olean meeting, it all boiled down to nostalgia and outdoor recreation.

Cattaraugus County’s natural assets should be highlighted as drawing points, residents said. With the Enchanted Mountains rising over much of the county, trails for horseback riding, hiking, snowmobiling and biking could play into a plan for the southeastern part of the county. Also, a major river runs through most of the southern part of the county, offering opportunities for water recreation. All of this development could lead to jobs, said Wendel representative Drew Reilly.

On the jobs front, calls for more areas to have shovel-ready areas were met with skepticism.

“No one is coming in as it is, what makes anyone think that, if we have places that are ready, people will come in and start businesses?” Cattaraugus County Legislator Dan Hale, R-Portville, asked.

District 7 Legislator, James Boser, D-Allegany, agreed with that sentiment.

“We do not make it easy,” he said. “With all of the regulations that we have at the various levels of government, why would a business come in?”

Reilly said a step beyond the shovel-ready concept is what may be needed, saying that many of the places that he has worked to help develop have gone through a pre-permitting process that could circumvent at least the local hassles that can arise in going to planning boards.

A final piece that seemed to permeate the room was finding new ways to recapture the Americana feel of the county, from the old Cloud 9 amusement park in Olean and Fentier Village in Salamanca to old barns and even outhouses along the roads. All of those things, according to a few people in the room, should be eyed, kept and developed into a way to entice the 1.5 million visitors to Allegany State Park, as well as the millions who visit the Seneca Allegany Casino.

Wendel Companies will compile the ideas presented at Tuesday’s meeting and two more that are scheduled for presentation in a second round of public input sessions, “To make sure we heard what you said correctly,” Reilly said.

The second will be held in the Machias Library on May 8, and the third meeting will be held May 14 in the Legislative Chambers of the Cattaraugus County Center in Little Valley. All of the sessions are expected to start at 6 p.m. with an open house, moving into presentations on the project background and the planning process at 7:15.