Millerton Community Park worth celebrating

There are 17 acres located in the village of Millerton that by Dec. 31, 2021 — depending on construction schedules (at least Phase I construction) — will be transformed into a recreational oasis the likes of which have probably only been imagined in the minds of the 19 members of the Millerton Community Park Committee and Steering Committee. 

For those of you who are not yet familiar with the Millerton Community Park, it is what Eddie Collins Park has been called for the past five years, ever since former Millerton village Trustee Stephen Waite had the brilliant idea to redevelop the park and send out a subsequent community-wide recreation survey in 2016. 

The Route 22 Eddie Collins Park was named after the Millerton-born Major League ballplayer in 1963; Collins was born back in 1887 and inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

Returning to the present day, those 19 members of the Millerton Community Park Committee and Steering Committee have been busy ever since Waite’s suggestion. With Waite and his Co-Chair Jeanne Vanecko, they’ve volunteered their time, energy and talents to help renovate the aging Eddie Collins Park into a recreational resource for the 21st Century.

The park had fallen into a lackluster state as of late, not that it wasn’t nice to have a park within walking distance of Main Street, but it just hasn’t been the shining jewel of years’ past. 

Denney Pool, built in 1966, was closed by the village in 2015 due to cracks and structural problems. A 2003 skateboard park constructed with funds raised by a local youth group was also no longer being used. 

The basketball courts had gotten pretty shabby and the ballfields had so many ruts it was a miracle if players didn’t twist their ankles when trying to catch those pop balls. 

Eddie Collins Park had an incredible and expansive Playground for All Children, with equipment accessible to children in wheelchairs and a rubber-surfaced ground designed for safety. It was installed thanks to a very generous not to mention anonymous $1 million donation made in the early 2000s. And while major upgrades were made at the accessible park, some parents said more needed to be done there.

Plus, the parking area where parents and others who used the facility would park their vehicles was not very welcoming during poor weather. It would get extremely muddy and messy in the rain and snow. 

In 2017, the village of Millerton received a grant to design a new plan for the park; it hired the engineering firm, Chazen Companies, to create that plan. 

The plan includes: a regulation size soccer field; two basketball courts; a refurbished playground; an upgraded Little League field; an accessible swimming pool; a refreshment stand; a new entrance with abundant parking; shaded walkways with benches and tables; wooded walking trails/exercise course; lighting for nighttime activities; a new bathhouse with public restrooms; and an open space for public events.

The total project cost was estimated at $7 million; the Millerton Community Park Committee set an $8 million fundraising goal to cover contingencies. As of July 15, it had raised $1,456,200.

Those funds have come from various sources: $600,000 has come from the New York Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation; $620,000 has come from 139 individual donations (as of July 15); $152,000 has come from the county’s Community Development Block Grant program (which comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development); $40,000 has come from the village of Millerton; $25,000 has come from the town of North East; $12,600 has come from foundation and corporate grants; and $6,400 has come from 100 Trees for Millerton.

The 100 Trees for Millerton program is a fundraising campaign to help the committee “purchase and care for 100 trees that will provide beauty and color, shade in the summer heat, habitats for birds, insects and wildlife, and help groundwater management” at the park. Once the donations are collected, the committee hopes to purchase such lovely trees including maples, lindens, oaks, sycamores, redbuds, cherries, dogwoods and magnolias, all of which promise to beautify not to mention cool down those 17 recreational acres in the village. 

Meanwhile, individual pledges in the amount of $240,000 have been made for the years 2022 to 2024, according to the financial page of project’s website, www.millertonpark.org/finances.

This Saturday, Aug. 28, the entire village is invited to celebrate the committee’s hard work and the Millerton Community Park’s future at an ice cream social and ground breaking. 

The event will be held at the park from 3:30 to 5 p.m., with a rain date of Sunday, Aug. 29. The park is located at 5933 North Elm Ave. (Route 22) in Millerton. (For more details, read this week’s front page article by reporter Carol Kneeland.)

There will be county and local officials on hand giving speeches, plus the president of the North East Historical Society and the popular band The Joint Chiefs will perform. 

Organizers encourage everyone to follow COVID safety protocols, to wear their face masks and to respect social distancing.

To learn more about the Millerton Community Park project, go to www.millertonpark.org or email Stephen Waite at millertonpark@gmail.com.

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