The Dam Park at Austin – Have you Heard . . . the Whole Dam Story?

A Master Plan and Strategies for Economic Development, Marketing, and Tourism

AUSTIN, PA – On the eve of the Centennial of the tragedy that tested Austin’s desire and resolve, the Austin Dam Memorial Association will host a public meeting to present recommendations for enhancing the park, encouraging economic development, and marketing Austin as a destination in the Pennsylvania Wilds.

This meeting will be on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 – 7:00 pm, at the Austin Volunteer Fire Department, 42 Main Street, Austin, PA 16720. All are invited and encouraged to attend.

At this meeting consultants John Buerkle, Pashek Associates, and Glenn Vernon, Albertin Vernon, will present proposed strategies to: guide the Borough and the Austin Dam Memorial Association to encourage economic development on Main Street; connect the park to Main Street; improve the Dam Park to become a destination in the PA Wilds; share Austin’s infamous tragedy with the world by documenting the flood; and interpret the lives of the victims and survivors of the Flood.

David Brooks, of the Potter County Visitors Association, said, “It is important to coordinate the development of the Dam Park in a well thought out manner and tie those developments with business opportunities in the borough.” Brooks continued, “The plan will be much more than drawings on a map, it will prioritize projects, as well as identify new funding sources and strategies to implement those projects in a realistic manner.

John Buerkle and Glenn Vernon, whose firms teamed to prepare the master plan, said “The residents of Austin experienced a tragedy that nearly took their community off the map. Instead of letting this happen, the residents demonstrated a will and resolve to rise not only from the infamous flood of 1911, but also fires, other floods, and natural tragedies. As many have said before, Austin’s residents have proven this town is too tough to die.”

Buerkle said Austin and the Dam Park has one of the most interesting histories that he has experienced in over twenty years of practice. “Each time I go to the park it continues to impact me. As I walk through the park, I can see the results of the forces of nature, the ruins of the dam and ruins of the paper mill. I can only image the horror of those caught in the flood. And, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the solitude and beauty of the environment today. We believe the recommendations developed during the master plan process provide Austin with realistic and tangible strategies not only to guide the future of the park but to also capitalize on economic development opportunities presented by visitors coming into town.”

Glenn Vernon, who was responsible for developing recommendations and implementation strategies for interpreting the history of flood, its victims, and its survivors, said, “There are so many stories to tell. We have taken great effort to develop recommendations that interpret this history not in matter-of-fact manner, as so much of history has been documented, but in a manner that is very personal and touching. We want visitors to become emotionally connected to the town, park, and its history.”

Buerkle said the purpose of this meeting is to obtain input on what they are proposing in the master plan. “Our recommendations aren’t written in stone, we want feedback on what we have proposed. We want to make sure we have developed achievable recommendations that are consistent with what residents desire to happen in town and within the park.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development have provided funding for the preparation of the master plan. The team of Pashek Associates, a Landscape Architecture and Community Planning Firm of Pittsburgh, and Albertin Vernon, an Architectural Firm of Loganton, is preparing the plan.

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