By SAMANTHA MCDONNELL
OBSERVER Staff Writer
GOWANDA - A former animal glue factory site along Palmer Street in Gowanda is one step closer to being transformed into a recreational facility that will serve the residents of Gowanda and surrounding areas.
Currently, the Peter Cooper site looks like an off-roader's dream - an empty lot with various piles of dirt being hauled in by Gernatt Gravel. The site will soon be home to a recreational facility. The coarse soil-like substance is from a silt washing pit located along High Street as part of Gernatt's productions. The product is left over from the airport sand operation at Gernatt and there was no more room to store the product.
Three oversized off road work trucks have been making continuous round trips from Gernatt's silt washing pit along High Street to the site. These trucks were used because they can haul the same amount of product in a third of the time. In total, 32,000 yards of the substance will be hauled. The hauling which started early last week is scheduled to last 10 days ending early this week.
In order to make the work more efficient, Donald Gernatt and Gernatt Gravel built a haul road cutting through part of the property owned by Gowanda Self Storage. The road was planned to affect the least amount of residents.
Mike Hutchinson, Gowanda Area Redevelopment Corporation member and retired Village Highway Superintendent, spoke highly of Donald Gernatt and his cooperation to work with GARC.
"He's been tremendous," Hutchinson said.
All soil that is being hauled in has been EPA tested, GARC President Joe Vogtli said. The site is currently free of pollutants and contaminates. Once completed, the site will not have any contaminates or pollutants from the previous superfund site. Once the hauling is completed, a bulldozer will level out the site.
"(The) Wilhelms can leave a legacy behind that's not pollution," Hutchinson said.
Any damage to roads or the village caused by this hauling or during any other phase during the construction of the recreational facility, will be repaired at no cost to the village, according to Hutchinson.
"We have agreed to work with the village and GARC to repair all roads and water lines at no cost (to the village)," Hutchinson said.
Already, GARC has helped replace water lines near the Peter Cooper site for four houses. The prior water lines that were removed, as shown by Hutchinson, were rusted out and filled with holes.
"(It was) an improvement to the community," Hutchinson said.
Beginning in 1904, the Peter Cooper site was one of the largest glue factories in the world. It was owned and run by the Wilhelm family.
After closing in 1985, the factory which was adjacent to Cattaraugus Creek, was declared a superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency. The 26-acre property was found to be contaminated by hazardous waste in 1998. The EPA named the Wilhelm Enterprises Corporation, North Eastern Tannery Group and NYSEG as primary responsible parties for the contamination and pollution. As being named responsible, it was their duty to clean up the site. The property changed owners in 2009 to the GARC. Through GARC, the site will be transformed into a recreational site, slated to open next year. By summer, the site will be a leveled flat plain. The planning stages will then commence. For planning, GARC has received a grant for $57,000 already, Vogtli said. The non-profit organization is also applying for more grants through the department of New York State Parks and Recreation.
Hutchinson has been a tremendous help in the project, Vogtli said.
"Without Mike's drive, (we) wouldn't have gotten this (the project) off the ground," Vogtli said.
During the previous planning stages, numerous public meetings were held. The public had its chance to give input as to what would be placed on the former factory site.
"We're giving the public what they want," Hutchinson said.
Once completed, the facility hopes to house concessions. There will also be fishing and rafting access into Cattaraugus Creek, a combination softball soccer field, as well as commercial space available for rent and a skate park. There will also be camping and restroom facilities as well as a hiking and bike trail. The village of Gowanda will maintain the property once completed.
"It will be a jewel in Cattaraugus County ... an accent to Zoar Valley," Hutchinson said.
The current site has fishing access with a stairway entering down into Cattaraugus Creek. Adjacent to the parking lot is parking.
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