SALAMANCA — A new picnic area for reunions, parties and events in the city is under construction at the end of Fawn Avenue.
Under ownership of the Salamanca Permanent Firefighters Benevolent Association, the approximately 1.5-acre space across from the Bill Flanigan ice pond is on its way to becoming a multi-use area with a pavilion and tables, recreational space, a parking lot and more.
“We’re working on it now, starting to clear the land and stuff like that,” said Brandon Smith, Code Enforcement Officer and member of the association, earlier in June. “By the end of the week, it should be shovel ready.”
About one year ago, the association purchased the two vacant lots from the city for $912.50 with plans to develop the property as a picnic area.
Phase one of the project is estimated to cost about $65,000. Smith said the association also received a grant for $40,000 from the Salamanca Industrial Development Agency, something they did not initially expect.
“That has worked out well, so we’re just playing it by ear for now,” he added.
By the end of the project’s first phase, Smith said they’re hoping to have a 40-foot by 20-foot pavilion, a permanent barbecue pit area to cook about 150 chickens, six to eight horseshoe pits and possibly a gazebo that could be used for photoshoots.
“The goal is to have it ready by spring of next year to be rented, but it looks like the pavilion is going to go in this year,” he said. “That’s going to be the main priority with some picnic tables.”
Smith said a portable garage would also be installed onsite soon to store mowing and property maintenance equipment.
Part of wanting to develop the previously city-owned property was its proximity to the ice pond, Smith explained. He said with the planned parking lot, it will service the picnic area in the warmer months and the ice pond in the winter.
“We figured it would be a site of future development,” he added. “It’s really a nice area up there.”
Smith said they are also hoping to start a horseshoe league next year as another opportunity to bring the community together during the summer months. He said it would be a good revenue generator for the association to keep up the quality condition of the grounds.
“We’re trying to give back to the community,” Smith said. “It’s good for everybody all the way around.”
Work initially began last fall with clearing out a lot of the overgrowth with construction beginning in earnest in May with cutting down trees and removing the lumber and stumps, preparing the site for the new structures, Smith said. Most recently, the land has been graded and the driveway and parking lot laid out.
“So far the only thing we’ve hired out is the company last year who did the land clearing,” he Smith said. “Now, Seneca Construction has been doing the site work for us.”
With the social distancing practices from the COVID-19 pandemic in place, Smith said it’s been tough to get the association together to make the decisions needed to move forward, which has slightly slowed down progress.
However, the neighborhood has been receptive to the project so far with people coming up from the nearby Pennsy Trail asking what’s going on. “It seems to be positive so far with anyone we’ve really talked to,” Smith said.
Looking ahead, Smith said their future goals are to install permanent bathrooms and a small kitchen area. But they want phase one finished for next year so people have another option for holding an event or small get-together.
“The only place that people have to be able to rent is Crowley Park, and it can book up a full year in advance, and there’s really no other place to go,” he added.
(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at firstname.lastname@example.org)