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Dedicated park effort

Hanover honors founder in Forestville

Hanover held its regular meeting of the Town Board at the renovated Bicentennial Park after a dedication in Harry Van Curen’s honor.

FORESTVILLE — In 1975, Harry Van Curen had an idea to benefit his local Forestville community. A piece of land he owned up on a hill on King Road seemed like the perfect place for a public park.

Nearly 50 years later, the park has turned into exactly what he had in mind.

The park got its name because of a federal initiative to match funding for Bicentennial projects. Van Curen inquired with the surrounding municipalities — Forestville, Hanover, and Silver Creek — and was told there was not any funds available to start a project. It was then that Van Curen had the idea to donate his property at 611 King Road to the Town of Hanover at no cost. The land was valued and the cost of the work from the Highway Department was submitted for Federal reimbursement.

The town’s Highway Department then transformed the land into a public park, named the Bicentennial Park.

“It has worked out really well,” Van Curen said. “This place has been busy right along. Every summer, every weekend this place is packed.”

OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen Harry Van Curen cut the ribbon at the official reopening of the newly renovated Bicentennial Park in Forestville. Pictured from left to right: Town Clerk Elizabeth VanCheri, Town Supervisor Louis Pelletter, Town Deputy Supervisor Bernie Feldmann, Harry Van Curen, Darlene Van Curen, and Town Accountant Elmar Kiefer.

Van Curen himself has used the park for several family reunions. Graduation parties and wedding receptions have also been held at the park over the years.

“Whenever they needed a park, this was available,” Van Curen said.

A sign to dedicate the park in Van Curen’s honor was eventually installed in 2014, nearly 40 years after his donation. Almost 10 years to the date of that dedication, the Town of Hanover convened at the site again to unveil the updated site.

Armed with American Rescue Plan Act funding and reserve funds “squirreled away” by Town Accountant Elmar Kiefer, with work done by the Town’s Highway Department, the park has seen plenty of improvements. Extensive renovations were done to the pavilion and its surrounding area, featuring an enclosed kitchen with running water and a refrigerator, a handicap-accessible restroom, electricity and lighting, a serving counter, and several benches. Roofing and drainage improvements were also made, with even more improvements will come at a later date.

Forestville’s Bicentennial Park has now become the perfect place for local residents to gather, just as Van Curen had hoped. He credited town Supervisor Louis Pelletter and his son, Peter, the town’s Highway Superintendent, for getting the project done. Van Curen was close with Louis Pelletter’s father and utilized his services as an attorney during Van Curen’s time as a local official, as well as in his personal real estate dealings.

Van Curen still lives locally with his wife, Darlene, in Silver Creek during the fair weather months. The couple travels to Florida each winter after visiting family in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving each year. Van Curen worked for Ford Motor Co.for 30 years before retiring in his 50s. Now at the age of 80, Van Curen has plenty of time to visit the land that was once his to see the impact he made with his donation.

“When I came on the Board in 2016, I obviously wanted to restore this,” Louis Pelletter said. He joked it took him a little longer than he hoped, but Phase 1 of the project has now been completed.

Bicentennial Park will be available for public use to reserve at the Town Clerk’s Office at an affordable cost. The Town Board will set an official usage fee at an upcoming meeting to cover the cost of maintenance.

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