Park project dedication lights the way

Teri Gulick, Rep. Sandra Major, Commissioner Alan Hall, Vicki Drake and Stefanie Thornton revealed the stone patio pavers dedicated to those who contributed to the New Milford Park improvements over the past decade was unveiled in a ceremony held Saturday at the park. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

BY STACI WILSON

Ivan, June, Lee and Irene weren’t invited to the ribbon cutting celebrating park improvements in New Milford on Saturday.

The New Milford park project, over a decade in the making, suffered delays along the way: Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004; a portion of the park washed away in the June 2006 flood; and Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Irene dealt it blows during construction last year.

Vicki Drake of the Blue Ridge Park’s Association said, “There’s been a lot of speed bumps along the way,” Drake said.

But those speed bumps didn’t change the Association’s focus to add a lighted walking trail, Born Fitness trail for families with young children, a new concession stand and restrooms to the park.

New Milford Council President Teri Gulick welcomed about 100 people who attended the ceremony. “What started as a drawing on a piece of paper, now stands before us to be enjoyed by generations to come,” Gulick said.

A large, engraved paving stone placed in the center of the New Milford park’s stone patio thanks the community for its efforts in making the project possible. STAF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

Drake, who spearheaded grant writing and fundraising efforts for the project, looked at the crowd and said, “I see so many people this project wouldn’t have been possible without. This is your park,” she said.

The $250,000 improvement project was made possible through grants, donations and in-kind services. Drake said many of the contractors who worked on the project donated labor or material.

After the June 2006 flood, $121,000 in FEMA/PEMA funds restored the park to its pre-flood condition. Additional grants, including $80,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources allowed for the installation of the long-awaited lamp posts and paving of the walking trail.

Mayor Joe Taylor congratulates Vicki Drake, of the BR Parks Association, at the ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating park improvements on Saturday, Sept. 22.

Susquehanna County CARES joined the effort, installing the first “Born Learning” trail in northeastern Pennsylvania.

CARES director Stefanie Thornton explained that along the trail, parents and young children are encouraged to try some creative learning stations while they walk the trail.

Thornton said CARES has lost its state funding but, “If there’s a legacy we can leave this county, it is the work at this park.”

Following the remarks, a stone patio was unveiled, featuring unique paving stones, many already engraved with names of community members and businesses that supported the park project. Some of the pavers are still available.

Drake said she thought the park project really pulled the community together. “I’ve gotten to know the people who have helped out,” she said.

Home to the Blue Ridge Triplets, Little League and high school baseball team, the park is well utilized by sports teams. The public pool, the only one in Susquehanna County, is another draw.

And, despite the speed bumps along the way, so is the lighted walking trail.

“I enjoy seeing how many people are using it,” Drake said.