(From left) Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, County DPW Commissioner William Geary, Legion Auxiliary President Anne Baglio and Hank Fuller, a member of Concord American Legion Post 431, pull a sheet off the new sign at the corner of South Cascade Drive and Zoar Valley Road, designating the latter road as Honorary American Legion Drive on Friday, Aug. 3. Looking on at right is Tom Place, Legion commander, with a handful of local veterans and Legion members in the background. Photo by Rich Place.

By Rich Place

Local government officials joined members of Concord American Legion Post 431 last week to honorarily designate a section of Zoar Valley Road as American Legion Drive in a potential first step in permanently renaming the road.

The honorary renaming is for the section of Zoar Valley Road that begins at the intersection with South Cascade Drive. The ceremony was a precursor to the local American Legion’s 100th anniversary next year.

A contingent of veterans witnessed several local officials — including Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Legislator John Mills, Springville Mayor Bill Krebs and Concord Supervisor Clyde Drake — speak at the noisy intersection. It culminated with the unveiling of a small brown sign identifying the road’s new designation.

“It will serve on this very busy South Cascade Drive as a reminder to all the passing tourists and traffic that indeed we should remember those who serve our country and those who have served our country and what a great job they do for all of us,” said Krebs.

The Concord American Legion Post 431 is located about a quarter mile past the sign and is one of the few businesses located on the small stretch of Zoar Valley Road, which was split into two sections with the construction of the Route 219 expressway about eight years ago.

There are currently two Zoar Valley Roads: a portion from South Cascade Drive dead ends east of the expressway and the original section west of the expressway is accessible via road constructed during the expressway expansion that comes out on Route 39.

Krebs noted a potential official renaming of the road in the near future not only reminds the public about the Legion’s location on the road but also benefits first responders who currently must determine which Zoar Valley Road a call is coming from.

“When firemen respond to EMTs respond, we actually have to go back and tell our control center which part of Zoar Valley (Road) they have to go to,” Krebs explained. “I think this will help very much.”

It’s hoped the honorary renaming will be the first step in officially turned this portion of Zoar Valley Road, which is a county-owned road, into American Legion Drive.

William Geary, commissioner of the county’s Department of Public Works, admitted after the ceremony it is a “complicated” process to officially rename a road that involves the county’s legal team, county clerk and the county legislature.

“It shouldn’t be as hard as it is, but we’ll get it done if that’s what needs to be done,” he said, noting it has been a long time since such a process took place.

The ceremony and sign unveiling was part of a weekend of celebration for Concord American Legion Post 431, which also hosted a picnic on Saturday. The post was founded in September 1919 and will celebrate 100 years next year.

“A hundred years is a long time,” said Poloncarz. “When you think about it … you realize where we were 100 years ago as a nation: in the middle of World War I. The American Legion Post has been around that long, serving veterans of our community who served in what was the war to end all wars.

“Of course, that was not the war that ended all wars,” he continued. “There have been a number of wars as well as peacetime engagements that our troops have been involved in since that and they are still, unfortunately, finding themselves overseas in areas of combat. Our thoughts and prayers are always with our fellow men and women serving on behalf of our country serving wherever they may be.”

The American Legion Post in Springville was formed as Thurber Post 431 on Sept. 16, 1919 and was initially named after Lynn Thurber, who lost his life during World War I in France. The name was changed to Concord American Legion Post 431 six weeks later.

“Your successful efforts and contributions to make the lives better for veterans should be a source of pride for both your members and patriotic Americans everywhere,” said Drake during the ceremony. “We are lucky in the town of Concord to have a very active Concord American Legion (Post) 431, along with the Auxiliary, Sons of the Legion, Auxiliary Juniors and Legion Riders, and I thank them for their many efforts.”

The American Legion Auxiliary Unit 431 will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020.

For anyone interested in joining the American Legion or its other related organizations can call 592-5627 between noon at 7 p.m.