$4M Cattaraugus campground proposed

September 14, 2012 Updated Sep 14, 2012 at 7:32 AM EDT

By James Fink; Business First


$4M Cattaraugus campground proposed

September 14, 2012 Updated Sep 14, 2012 at 7:32 AM EDT

Plans to turn the former Camp Lakeland property in Franklinville is expected to clear a major hurdle in the coming days.

The County of Cattaraugus Industrial Development Agency board of directors, when they meet on Sept. 18, are expected to set into a motion a mandated environmental review and set a public hearing covering incentives that are being offered to local businessman John Hutchins. He wants to invest more than $4 million to turn the former summer camp into a year-round "glamorous camping" destination, dubbed The Woods at Bear Creek Family Resort. Following both actions, the IDA directors will likely vote on the incentive package during their October meeting.

"What John is proposing is a unique and cutting-edge version of camping in Western New York," said Corey Wiktor, IDA executive director.

Hutchins bought the sprawling 170-acre parcel from the Jewish Community Center of Buffalo, which operated Camp Centerland until it closed in 2008. Hutchins paid $1.3 million for the property last year.

Plans call for renovating the cabins on the former Camp Centerland property into upscale overnight units while the property will feature such amenities as 14 miles of nature trails, an Olympic-sized pool, basketball and tennis courts and horseback riding.

Upscale outdoor tent facilities will also be available.

The project is the first of several phases with later ones including a high-end RV park developed.

Hutchins, who also operates the Rapids Theater in Niagara Falls, may also stage outdoor concerts at the venue. He expects the bulk of the Woods at Bear Creek Family Resort to operate during all 12 months.

"What he is focusing on is a different aspect of tourism," Wiktor said. "He's bringing a unique spin to the great outdoors."

The project will create 40 full- and part-time jobs initially, according to IDA documents.

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