Dave Talan

[When you were the president of Reservoir Triangle Neighborhood Association, what were the big projects you were doing?]

...The Gorham property, which is also on Mashapaug pond, that used to be a major manufacturing place in the city of Providence from about 1890 to 1980. Used to employ thousands of people. It was a major part of the neighborhood and then they basically went out of business. There really wasn’t much of a market for fine silver that there was back then. I mean nowadays people don’t really care about that. They pretty much went out of business and the property was sitting empty for a number of years. And there was a problem of homeless people living there and it was just really a mess. And so we fought with the city to try and redevelop it. Initially the plan was to try and salvage the buildings Gorham had and save them as historic buildings and maybe use them, but that really wasn’t practical because they were long and narrow and they really weren’t suitable for anything else other than silver smithing. Eventually some buildings deteriorated, some burned down while they were empty. So eventually they knocked down the whole property. Then we served as a neighborhood committee to suggest what we would like to go in there. Now there is a shopping center that is in there, unfortunately it is sitting empty because of the economy. But you know we were responsible for that.

There were two other parcels that were there, one of which is now a high school. The other one was supposed to be the Providence YMCA that was going to go in there. And then when they discovered that there was hazardous waste underground from the years that Gorham was there, the YMCA couldn’t wait for it to get cleaned up. So that’s kind of like sitting empty now. Eventually if it gets cleaned up the plan is to try to make athletic fields that could be used by the high school and by the neighborhood. It’s going to take a long time to clean it up, it’s a slow process, but like I say, we are there, we are not going anyplace so if it takes 10 or 15 years to do it, we’ll still be around when they finish it. You know initially, there were plans, or actually there already are walking trails that go all around that part of the pond. And if the YMCA had gone in there they were going to build a nature center and they were going to use it for summer camps. Those plans have kind of fallen by the wayside, but eventually we’ll make them happen too.

[What’s your attitude towards this cleaning up process?]

Well, it’s a slow process. I’m not convinced it’s as dangerous as people say it is. Because I’ve organized hikes all around the pond and I’ve gone through this property that they say is too dangerous. I haven’t grown any extra arms or anything from being there but, you know, because of those experiences of having done that before anyone discovered there was hazardous waste, I am convinced it can be reused in time and it can be made into major parkland. You know it is taking longer than we hoped it would, but I believe it will happen.