Call it a bird's-eye view of a disaster area.
Plans are in the works for a Love Canal museum, complete with a viewing tower overlooking the former residential area devastated in the 1970s by one of the nation's worst environmental disasters.
The three-story building could cost up to $10 million and draw nearly 200,000 visitors a year, according to Niagara County Legislator Samuel P. Granieri, chairman of a committee that will develop the museum.
Details of the plans will be announced at a public meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Niagara Falls High School, 4455 Porter Road, Granieri said.
"There's a great deal of interest in Love Canal," said Trudy Christman, a trustee of the Love Canal 2000 Committee, the developing group. "It was a special event in history that helped shape awareness worldwide of environmental issues."
The museum, to be officially known as the Love Canal Education and Interpretation Center, will be built on Frontier Avenue between 100th and 102nd streets and will be open to the public in various stages of development over the next five years, Granieri said.
The museum would amass all the photographs, artifacts and documents related to the Love Canal disaster that are currently scattered throughout several government agencies, Niagara Falls Public Library and the University at Buffalo, Granieri said.
The $30,000 bill for the feasibility study conducted over the past year was paid for by the Niagara County Environmental Fund, established after a 16-year legal battle between the federal government and Occidental Chemical Corp., which bought the property from Hooker Chemicals & Plastics Corp. in 1968.
Granieri said that after unveiling the feasibility study Tuesday, his group will begin efforts to raise the money from private donors.
Building the museum would require private funding as well as government grants and foundations.
"There is so much interest in preserving this part of our history, I'm confident we can get the funding," Granieri said.
"We've been working on this for quite a long time," said Christman, an area resident and president of the Black Creek Block Club. "It's a positive project, and we're very excited about it."
Some longtime Love Canal residents don't share the excitement.
"Busloads of tourists invading the area -- I wouldn't want it," said retired welder Chester Pysz, 73, who has lived on 101st Street for more than 40 years. "Anyway, there's nothing left to see. They knocked all the houses down."
Pysz, who stayed in his home through the voluntary evacuations of 7,500 people, said he and his wife raised three healthy children and a grandchild in that house.
"An observation tower with people looking into our back yards," mused Diana Giarrizzo, another 101st Street resident. "I would be a little uncomfortable with that."
The proposed building would contain no nonbiodegradable materials such as plastic that could harm the environment, said Lynda Schneekloth, the project manager and a professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at UB.
"It will be a green building, in the environmental sense of that word, and will be entirely compatible with a parklike setting," said Schneekloth.
Hooker used the open canal to dump 21,800 tons of poisonous chemical wastes between 1942 and 1953. The contamination wasn't evident until 1978, when toxic sludge bubbled up into back yards and basements.
During several waves of voluntary evacuations starting in 1978, more than 300 houses and an elementary school were demolished. Many illnesses and deaths were linked to the contamination.