For nearly 20 years, the town of Clay has been working on fixing up the Three Rivers site where the Seneca, Oneida and Oswego rivers meet.
“It’s been a long process,” said Clay Town Board member Naomi Bray, who has made it her mission to see the project to fruition. “It gets frustrating. But it’s definitely an ongoing process.”
The town is ready to move into the next stage of that process with a meeting to be held from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, in the meeting room at Town Hall, 4401 Route 31, Clay. The meeting marks the next phase of the execution of the Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) grant received by the town in the early 2000s.
“The event on the 27th will be for us to begin to get community feedback on the concepts for what could go on the Point side to the left of Route 57. That’s what we’re concentrating on now,” Bray said. “The thoughts we’re advancing at this point include some kind of entertainment area, a playground, a food facility, marinas for some small crafts on the waterfront, a promenade on the waterfront and, most importantly, a historical area to commemorate the Iroquois Confederacy in addition to the fact that the first settlement in town of Clay was at the Three Rivers area.”
Three Rivers has a lot of historical significance in Central New York. Archeological excavations have uncovered evidence of Native American settlements that date back hundreds of years before the first Clay settler took up residence at Three Rivers in 1793. It is thought to be the site of gatherings of the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, and military leaders from the French and Indian War as well as the American Revolution are known to have visited the point.
The current project looks to embrace that history, as well as build on the town’s 27 miles of waterfront.
“We really haven’t made good use of that prime territory,” Bray said. “It just seemed like a wonderful natural asset that we should be urging more activity to develop there, and happily it is.”
The town began acquiring the land in 1993 or 1994 when Cibro Petroleum Products went bankrupt.
“The town inherited, so to speak, their land for $2, 60-some acres. That was the catalyst,” Bray said. “It was, ‘Okay, now we can begin to get our feet into this vision that we have for the waterfront areas.’ From the Cibro acquisition, we began to look at the point, which was the cherry on the whole project, because it is so beautiful there.”
The town then began the process of acquiring the surrounding land, which now totals roughly 85 acres from the point east to Bennett Road, on which were two former asphalt plants and the crumbling but historic Three Rivers Motel. The motel, which Bray called “a real eyesore,” came down in 2004, but the former asphalt plants’ land was a brownfield and needed to be mitigated before any development could begin. So the town contracted with Plumley Engineering in nearby Lysander to take on that aspect of the project.
“A brownfield is a property that’s got some kind of environmental issues which hinder its redevelopment,” said Dale Vollmer of Plumley Engineering. “This site has two former asphalt plants that are there. One has been demolished and it’s just an open field now, but it’s got soil and groundwater contamination. The town owns that one. The other one is owned by [Sunoco]. They don’t use it. It’s been closed for many years. We’re working with them and the Department of Environmental Conservation to bring that along to a new use where it’s probably demolished and some investigation is done to see what issues there are.”
Fortunately, in the early 2000s, the town of Clay was the recipient of a relatively new Department of State grant called a Brownfield Opportunity Area grant, which would allow the town and Plumley Engineering to identify the issues that could be hindering development and come up with a way to address those issues in an economically viable manner.
The meeting at Town Hall this Sunday hopes to bring community in to get ideas for the development of the site.
“This is one of the early steps in the second part of BOA,” Bray said. “We’re entering the nomination phase, which, according to the state, is ‘an in-depth analysis leading to key findings and recommendations to advance redevelopment of strategic sites and revitalization.’”
It will be held in conjunction with another popular town event, the recreation department’s annual Halloween party, by design. While kids enjoy costume parties, trick-or-treating and contests on the lower level, their parents can inspect concept drawings, check out a continual-loop PowerPoint presentation and talk with representatives from Plumley Engineering, as well as John Behan Planning and Design and the E.M. Pemrick Company.
“It’s the same time that the recreation department is holding the Halloween party on the lower level,” Bray said. “The hope is that parents will come up to the meeting room and take a look at the potential for their kids’ future.”
For more information, contact the town at 652-3800.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.