Woodstock needs more places for youth to play and one group of hard-working volunteers is doing something about it. Though only recently appointed by the town, the Parks and Recreation Task Force is essentially the same members as the Friends of Rick Volz Park Advisory Group. This group of volunteers has been working for the last year and a half to make much-needed upgrades at Rick Volz Park in Bearsville Flats.
“We’re working on a series of improvements really for safety and to improve the enjoyment of the park,” committee member Vincent Christofora said in his office at Woodstock Hardware, while looking at a map of the park along with members Joan Schuman and Michael Stock Sr. Recent work includes the addition of necessities we take for granted such as a bathroom, replacing an aging port-a-potty.
The committee plans to build a pavilion for use by all park-goers, not just those attending Little League games. Similar to the structure at Andy Lee field, it will include grilling stands and space for up to 12 picnic tables.
Pointing to a large swath of town land next to the baseball field, Christofora said plans include an outdoor education center complete with trails, to be created by working with Onteora science teachers. A biking skill course will challenge riders to use momentum and gravity to get through it, only needing to pedal to start.
For older people, stations will feature signs with suggested climbing and muscle exercises, similar to what is featured on the Hudson Valley Rail Trail in Highland.
“Our task is to look at Rick Volz Park, and then incorporating all town facilities,” Christofora said.
Why Rick Volz?
Andy Lee Field is popular and used by many, but its use is severely restricted for safety reasons when the Summer Recreation program is in session. The committee plans to make Rick Volz a “facility for all ages,” Stock said. “We want to bring innovative uses to the park and not just what’s already in town.”
Christofora said more facilities are needed to keep children and neighbors engaged. “We’re in a time where there’s a lot of isolationism,” he said, noting people build houses with big fences and they’re glued to video screens instead of getting to know their neighbors. They may buy a big trampoline that gets used a few times and forgotten until the wind blows it up against the house, he noted.
The committee is also very mindful of the opioid epidemic and the need for activities to create health diversions. “As the saying goes, more green, less screen,” Christofora said.
Reaching out to the community
People have reacted positively to these improvements, committee members noted, but it takes money. A big chunk of funds comes from a recreation fee charged to housing developments. Beyond that, it takes asking for donations. “We’re reaching out to banks and local businesses,” Stock said. Rondout Savings Bank contributed last year and will again this year, he said.
Some help in other ways. “We’re very excited to have the support of the town,” Schuman said.
Town departments and officials including Code Enforcement Officer Ellen Casciaro and Highway Superintendent Mike Reynolds have cleared hurdles and given suggestions along the way.
“The pavilion is the next big project,” Stock said. Then, it’s onto replacing dilapidated playground equipment, Christofora added. The improvements will happen in phases and funding is available.
Who were Rick Volz and Andy Lee?
The town’s big recreation fields on either end of town bear their names, but it’s likely few know about them. Volz, who lived in Woodstock in the 1960s and 70s, was a husband, father and Little League coach. He died in an automobile accident at age 35. In the 1970s, the town created the Dixon Avenue park and named it in Volz’s honor.
Lee grew up in Woodstock and attended Kingston High School in the 1950s, where he was Student Council vice president and excelled at football. Lee was killed in a partridge hunting accident in 1956 when he was struck by a wayward bullet inadvertently fired by his friend who had tripped and fallen.
He is buried in Woodstock Cemetery next to the field named in his honor.
Ways to help with improvements
Those interested in donating can go to the Rick Volz Park GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/rick-volz-park-fundraiser. Donations can also be sent to the town, which is collecting funds on the task force’s behalf. Checks can be made payable to the Town of Woodstock Rick Volz Project and sent to Town of Woodstock, 45 Comeau Drive, Woodstock, NY 12498.
Those who can’t give money can contribute their time, labor or other talents, such as grant writing. For more information, contact the group through the Friends of Rick Volz Park Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to Christofora, Schuman and Stock, the other committee members are Robert Bloomer, Diane Christofora, Kevin Christofora, Billy Denter, Marianne Durkin, Scot Hastie, James Lonergan, Barry Price and Les Walker.