Bill Davis was born in Plymouth, PA, a suburb of Wilkes-Barre. He attended Penn State where he graduated with an Industrial Engineering degree, then came to work at Kodak. His philosophy was that there were three phases of life - preparation, fulfillment, and payback. That led him to retire early since he was eager to embark on that payback phase.
Bill had become interested in work in the community through participation in the Charlotte Community Association. Here he began a study of local history and the Genesee River. When the city had plans to turn some prime wooded river banks in Charlotte, over to the Golden Eagle Oil Company to put up storage tanks, this was just the sort of challenge to inspire him to action. Bill had visions of parks and hiking and biking paths along the river and the oil tanks would make that dream hard to accomplish.
His first response was to gather as much information as he could about the need for oil, the pertinent costs, and the chemical effects on the area and on the river. He pulled together a group called “Action to Save the Genesee” to help. The Democrat & Chronicle Editorial Board asked him to present his case. Accompanied by three friends, a chemist, a finance expert, and an environmentalist, they confronted the board armed with facts. The oil company presented a poorly prepared case. The newspaper changed its policy and came out favoring Bill’s plan. The city changed its policies about the river and Turning Point Park was born. It was named for its location at the turning basin for the boats, but also
After that victory, Bill moved on with his plan for paths on both sides of the river from Lake Ontario to the Erie Canal and beyond. He studied the history of settlements along the river, made slide shows, filled requests for showing his slides to senior citizen groups, garden clubs, schools, and to anyone who would listen to him. He made videos and gave them to all the libraries and schools. He led many groups and individuals in hikes.
Then he created “Rediscover the River Day”. He enlisted people from all the community groups along the river and some additional individuals he knew, to be at various points of interest . He wrote brochures for each point; he made hand printed signs, and gathered appropriate materials for displays at each point. Then on that day he and I distributed everything and set up the signs. Bill had done a lot of publicity, even appearing at a convention of school teachers, inviting them to attend. Rediscover the River Day was a big success. Many people attended and were amazed at the beauty of a river in their own city that they had never seen or appreciated before.
The day was so successful that Bill repeated it every spring and fall. He did this thirteen times, each time adding more sites of interest. After that the city took responsibility and renamed the fall event “River Romance”. The spring event has become the “Harbor Festival” and is run by the Beach and Port Group.
Bill’s dream of trails along the river is just about complete now. Many people enjoy hiking and biking on those trails every day. We have Bill Davis to thank for the change in emphasis by the city to a recreational use of a valuable asset that was once just a place for sewage disposal. Enjoy River Romance in the fall and Harbor Festival in the spring and think of the man who made it all possible.