As I sit waiting for the Yanks to begin tonight, despite the rain (hopefully,) I'm thinking about our old favorite flooding spot around here: Western Avenue @ Stuyvesant Plaza. A branch of the Krum Kill flows under Western at this point, the water table is high, and the stormwater and drainage system is very old and not efficient enough to reduce flooding up to modern standards. If you've been by the area in the last few weeks you probably have noticed the construction work going on at the entrance to Stuyvesant Plaza, behind Fridays, at the old McKownville Reservoir location.
The reservoir is being reconstructed to enhance its ability to control water flow out to the Krum Kill via the branch running under Western. This first phase of the project at that location will reduce flooding of Western Ave. west of Fuller Rd. and east of Schoolhouse Rd. The second phase of the project is of particular interest to me and I can't wait for the results. The natural area around the old McKownville Reservoir will be turned into a pocket park with a trail around the reservoir, complete with benches, designed to be similar to the popular Buckingham Lake Park in Albany.
The living history of the area will hopefully be enhanced by this project. William McKown built a tavern at the site of the Burger King opposite Fuller Road in 1790 anticipating the completion of the Great Western Turnpike and reaped the benefits of the future Route 20 corridor. McKown, whose family's plot of land became most of "McKownville," became Guilderland Town Supervisor from 1813 to 1824 and he built the reservoir which has sat behind Stuyvesant Plaza as an under-utilized relic of the area's former water supply system, particularly since the plaza was built in 1959 and Crossgates was originally completed in 1984. The branch flows westward under the Northway terminus and Thruway behind the McKownville Methodist Church to Crossgates where it eventually disappears under parking lots.
How many people fly by on Western during good traffic flow and never know the pond is there? Perphaps if you turn your head to the right when leaving Stuyvesant to Western you've seen it. Maybe when you're stuck in rush hour traffic backed up from the Schoolhouse Rd. light on your way to the Northway entrance or further into Guilderland you've noticed it on your right. Regardless, it's a unique reminder that the area between Crossgates and Stuyvesant, including the current Thruway and Northway terminus rights-of-way, used to be wetlands. The McKownville residents will certainly benefit from this pocket park and so will the summertime shoppers at Stuyvesant who've grabbed a latte from Starbucks and need a place to sit by some water and trees before heading back onto the web of concrete and asphalt to go home. Give kudos to Ken Runion, Guilderland Town Supervisor, for overseeing the implementation of this project.