Glenn H. Curtiss Park Gets Green


Thanks to $900,000 in anonymous donations, an 8-acre plot of land near the spot where Glenn H. Curtiss flew his bamboo-and-fabric June Bug on July 2, 1908 may soon be turned into a park in honor of Curtiss. Curtiss’ achievement was the nation’s first officially observed flight exceeding one kilometer. The land, within the village limits of Curtiss’ hometown of Hammondsport, N.Y., rests on a lakefront that once hosted Curtiss’ first seaplane tests and is currently occupied by trees, brush and an abandoned railroad property. Two donations — a $500,000 sum sent through a California charity and a $400,000 offering by a local benefactor — combined to fall short of the landowner’s (a real estate developer) $1.1 million asking price. But in the end it was enough to succeed where previous efforts failed.

In 2004 a plan to create an 11-acre Glenn Curtiss Memorial Park stalled when a referendum to issue $1.3 million in bonds to fund the project failed to win enough votes. Now, a volunteer effort has resolved to set out this spring to clean up the parcel of land, installing a few benches and picnic tables, plus a map of walking trails. Proponents of the program believe the village of Hammondsport’s small-town image has remained true to its roots, looking much like it did back in Curtiss’ heyday.