Small step for spring cleaning, giant leap for revitalization
While some might have used a sleepy Sunday morning to relax following one of the biggest party weekends of the year in Fredonia, many were out cleaning up the downtown village areas with rakes and garbage bags in hand.
FredFest undoubtedly leaves behind debris, but a group of nearly 20 volunteers gathered in Barker Common Sunday to do a clean sweep with hopes of celebrating what they love about their community. Individuals, civic leaders and local business owners make up the committee, which aims to officially organize and beautify Fredonia, and would like to create a future economic stir to revitalize the village they love.
Village Trustee and committee member Susan Mackay noted she would probably have been home Sunday morning working on a painting. Instead, she donned gloves and got to work in the committee’s cleanup effort.
“For a couple generations now, we’ve been used to government, or municipalities doing everything for us. With this recent economic downturn, it’s really galvanized and awakened our community conscience. This is our village, we need to do something that says we appreciate all the things we enjoy about Fredonia, that cause us to stay here, and recognize what an energetic and vital community we are, and hopefully we can branch out and do something more along the lines of economic development down the road,” Mackay said.
Tyler Gotowka, of Lawley Tradition Insurance, added, “Our goal was basically to just start revitalizing downtown and to remind community members, you don’t have to go out of Fredonia for anything, and you can basically do everything locally. We would like to get the whole community, including the college community, back together.”
While working, the volunteers noted that several passersby recognized their efforts and thanked them. Some, they reported, were college students returning to campus following the previous night’s FredFest celebration who apologized for the debris scattered downtown.
“So many things take place here (Barker Common). The center of Fredonia really starts here, lots of traffic has to pass through here, soon many college students’ parents will be passing through here, we just figured, the timing is great, let’s work on getting things cleaned up and looking good, get some spring cleaning done. We’re in the middle of everything, not the middle of nowhere,” Gotowka added.
“I’ve heard an estimate that at any given time, more than 14,000 cars pass through this section of Main Street. It’s the idea that we want to celebrate Fredonia, because we really don’t know what a treasure we have here.”
The committee is comprised of Gotowka and Mackey, as well as Jim Nau, Shawn Heenan, Rich Goodman, Melissa Thompson and Mayor Steve Keefe. Many other residents and business owners joined their efforts, including two of Fredonia’s youngest business owners, Ian and Kyle Muldowney of Muldowney Bros. Lawn Care, who donated their efforts and equipment to the good of the project Sunday.
Rob Contiguglia, a student at Jamestown Community College, worked with his parents Robert and Kathleen and was able to use his work Sunday toward a global studies assignment focused on call to action projects.
Forging a stronger neighborly bond with the campus community is something the committee would like to accomplish as their brainstorming of ideas takes shape.
“The fellow business owners on our committee have been able to give us a unique perspective and have been able to give us some very good ideas. We understand that although Fredonia is absolutely a beautiful place to live and work, a lot of people think poorly of it. We want to change that. We don’t want SUNY Fredonia to be thought of as separate from us, we want students to be able to enjoy this entire village safely, and not just know what the drink specials are on the weekends,” Gotowka said.
SUNY Fredonia student Matthew Minson has developed a Google Maps application called “Hidden Fredonia,” which Gotowka and Mackay are excited about.
“This can provide a forum for college students, so that they know what Fredonia has to offer, we want to expand our efforts to community members of all ages,” Gotowka added.
Mackay, who returned to the area after being out west, and Gotowka, who has lived and worked in New York City as well as New Jersey, both are hopeful that their committee’s accomplishments will help young professionals out of college, like Minson, stay and add to the flavor of Fredonia.
For anyone wishing to volunteer with their group, or find out about volunteer efforts scheduled for future dates, Gotowka added he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 560-6436.
From Barker Common, the group was headed for Eagle Street, White Street, Canadaway Street and other parts of the village to continue working.
Ian Muldowney added, “Students from everywhere, other colleges, were here for this party last night. I would assume it’s nice for people to see us out here working and trying to get things cleaned up. As young students ourselves, we can take part in the future of Fredonia. It’s nice to be able to enjoy the village, and have fun here, but be responsible and clean up when you’re done. It’s only 10:30 and we’ve picked up the commons area, the side streets and property owners will hopefully handle their own lawns and property, but the downtown areas can be cleaned up by all of us, why not?”