Townsend Leather to restore Wandel Park
GLOVERSVILLE — Townsend Leather is undertaking a project downtown to restore Wandel Park in partnership with the city.
Terry Kucel, a retired principal at Townsend, said Wednesday the company began work at Wandel Park located at the corner of Spring Street and Elm Street about three weeks ago beginning with landscaping work removing damaged trees.
Kucel and Townsend employee Rick Mitchell were in the park Wednesday continuing landscaping, removing damaged wooden beams along the concrete path that runs through the park. Kucel said they would be planting trees on Thursday.
Additional plans include removing and replacing the existing concrete walkways and steps, gardening, repairing the roofs of the two gazebos, adding lights, replacing the monument at the front entrance to the park and adding seating.
Townsend is covering the cost of the restoration, which Kucel estimated at $50,000. Townsend contracted William R. Dorn Construction, Inc. to complete the roof work that was underway Wednesday. The company has also been working closely with the city Department of Public Works and Director Dale Trumbull on the project.
DPW has been working to remove the damaged concrete that Townsend will replace. The city will also run electricity in the park to add some lighting this year, giving the company the ability to add additional lamposts in the park in the future as Kucel hopes to do.
Townsend has a history of undertaking community projects through the outward reaching Hugs Committee, including a restoration of Partners Park in Johnstown in the 90’s that the company still maintains and community cleanups along the Rail Trail and Townsend Avenue.
“They’re a pretty civic minded group of people and they take care of each other too,” Kucel said.
Kucel said the company was looking for a project in the city to undertake as a way to give back to the community and employees. Wandel Park was selected due to it’s location in the downtown area and the need given the condition of the park.
The Johnstown based company employs about 150 people locally with around half of the workforce residing in the city. The third-generation family owned company tries to take an active role in the community and the lives of its employees.
“It’s about trying to improve the community that our employees live in including their lifestyle hopefully. There’s a lot of activity in downtown Gloversville trying to revitalize the city, this is a little bit of doing that on our part,” Kucel said.
Kucel has his own roots in the city growing up in Meco, but graduating from Gloversville High School. He also attends church in the city and established an office downtown in the Schine Building on North Main Street after retiring.
“I love that old building, I love the smell of it and the antique furniture. It just feels good to be in downtown Gloversville,” Kucel said.
Kucel said the project at Wandel Park is in keeping with the ideas for revitalization that were discussed at the Placemaking 101 Conference held in the city in April that he attended, although plans for the park were already in motion before the conference.
The conference hosted by the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth and Downtown Development Specialist Jennifer Jennings featuring local leaders and national experts, served as a primer on the scalable approach to economic development that focuses on a community’s existing assets.
Placemaking depends on the actions of groups and individuals within the community coming together for small, cost effective projects that catalyze lasting change over time while generating growth by attracting prospective residents and business owners.
“I think that placemaking things are really good in the sense that it tells folks if you do one little thing and they all add up to one big thing, it really does improve our city. It’s kind of reinforcement,” Kucel said. “I can’t fix all of Gloversville but what little part can I help.”
Kucel said he also worked with the CRG and Jennings on the project, who suggested the park as a suitable location for concerts in the future. When the larger site work is complete, Kucel said the Hugs Committee will come to the park to help with planting and a dedication.
Kucel said restoration work on Wandel Park would likely be completed in July.
“My goal is just to do something good and give back a little bit,” Kucel said. “I hope that people and the community enjoy the park and it contributes to the rebuilding of downtown Gloversville.”