After several years of work, plans are underway to replace the aging community-built Hasbrouck Park playground in New Paltz with another community-built playground in the same location. The rebuilding of the playground is scheduled for Wednesday, September 25 through Sunday, September 29. The construction will be conducted under the supervision of the Village’s Department of Public Works, but will require hundreds of volunteers. The new playground is being funded largely with the Village’s recreation fee fund. The Village is seeking financial support across the following levels: $5k or above — Tier 1, +$2.5k — Tier 2, +$1k — Tier 3, +$200 — Tier 4. This time around, donors will all be listed on a central plaque, which will be easier to maintain than the many individual plaques in the current setup.
This column, compiled for the New Paltz Times by Carol Johnson, coordinator of the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection, includes tidbits from local papers about the amazing volunteer effort that took place to build the Hasbrouck Park playground in September of 1995. Enjoy these words of 25 years ago:
“This will be one of New Paltz’s finest hours,” says playground volunteer Kim Kimble. “When we stand back on Sunday and look at what we’ve done together as a community, we’ll have much more than a playground. We’ll have cherished memories and a sense of community pride that will stay with us forever.”
The organizers of the New Paltz Playground Project saw the fruits of nine months of hard work when they recently exceeded their fundraising goal of $75,000. The first hammer will hit the first nail Tuesday. Construction will continue through Sunday, at Hasbrouck Park with a grand opening celebration after completion of the project. The public is invited to the playground then for cake and playtime.
Playground volunteers are in need of the following tools: Four slide compound miter saws, paint brushes, scrub brushes, work gloves, goggles, safety glasses, ear plugs and sponges. Anyone willing to loan these items to the project is asked to drop them off with a volunteer at the playground tool shed in Hasbrouck Park, which opens on Thursday, September 7.
According to playground organizers work shifts will be divided into three segments: 8 a.m. to noon, noon to 4 p.m. and 4 p.m. to dusk. Signing up a head of time helps coordinate construction better. But if you can’t commit to a specific time, don’t fret. Just show up when you can and head to the volunteer sign-in table. Hundreds of people are needed to cook and/or serve food, provide child care, build and more. Child care will be provided at Redeemer Lutheran Church on Route 32. Food donations can be dropped off at St. Joseph’s Church kitchen.
Organizers have arranged to have both lunch and dinner served to all volunteers during the construction process. Home-baked-chicken, chili, burgers, pasta, salads and more will be donated and dropped off throughout the week to feed hundreds of volunteers.
Country music radio station WRWD is set to do a live broadcast from Hasbrouck Park on Tuesday, September 12 from 12 noon to 2:00 p.m. as construction gets underway.
The new playground will be accessible to children with physical difficulties. Plus, the wood-like material being used is enough to build three houses! Children can say “so long” to splinters, because all hand railings and crawl surfaces will be made of a non-splintering material called Trex, which looks just like wood, but it is actually made of recycled wood and plastic. “Trex is more expensive than wood,” explained co-coordinator Mary Strothenke, “but when it comes to our kid’s safety, no price is too high.”
The Center for Therapeutic Massage has offered to rub the kinks out of volunteers’ back on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Massages will cost $5, and all the money raised will go toward playground maintenance.
“I did some unskilled labor,” said town supervisor Dave Lent. “I gave a hand with some of the carpentry.” Lent thought the playground was important for the town. “This is important because it’s a place for kids to come and play, to exercise, and to get away from the TV — and that’s good,” he said.
Village trustee and playground committee member Robert Feldman agreed. “To see everyone together like this way is just fantastic.,” he said. Feldman spent his vacation working on the project. “New Paltz needs a little revitalization,” he said. “There is a lack of young families in the village and this playground may be a way to improve that situation.”
About 35 campus swimmers swung pick-axes and plunged shovels into the ground. Jen Neri was busy working a post-hole digger into the earth. She paused to wipe some sweat off her brow. “I’m having fun,” she said.
Work would have been easier if the diggers hadn’t hit hard rock. Two hydraulic augers were donated by Central Hudson and NYNEX, but the rock was too tough and had to be dealt with by hand. The delay pushed back the opening, originally scheduled for Sunday. Organizers said they are still looking for volunteers to put the finishing touches on the playground this Saturday. They also need an additional $3,500 to cover unforeseen construction costs.
Some much-needed rain slowed down construction, at least twice last week, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the many volunteers of all ages who worked hammering, sawing, lifting, measuring, treating the wood and assembling the structure.
Workers were putting the finishing touches on the new playground at Hasbrouck Park as hundreds of residents slowly gathered to celebrate its opening this past Monday. Belt-sanders were stored away. Power cords were carefully wrapped up and grass was raked before a ribbon cutting ceremony officially declared the playground open.
Glenn Gidaly and his wife Laura Walls, from Gardiner, pointed out the project’s similarity to an old-fashioned barn-raising. They thought it was a good way to bring the community together — especially with the college. “It was good to see the SUNY swim team out here working the other day,” Gidaly said. “Cooperation with the college is a positive change I’d like to see more of.”
“It was a wonderful community effort,” agreed county legislator Fawn Tantillo. Tantillo presented certificates of appreciation to project organizers. Patti Wilczek, Mary Strothenke and Kim Kimble were lauded for their efforts. Strothenke said, “I’m happy that it over, but I’m also a bit sad.”
Mayor Tom Nyquist said about 1,600 people had signed up to help build the playground during the week of September 12th through the 17th — it’s possible that as many as 2,000 people gave some of their time either at the worksite, serving food or caring for children at Redeemer Lutheran Church. I’ve lived in New Paltz since 1968, and I haven’t seen anything else generate this kind of community spirit and enthusiasm,” Nyquist said. “Nothing else has united and involved so many people as much as this playground.”
On the day of the grand opening celebration, The Bakery donated a cake in the shape of a dragon, similar to the playground’s motif.
Rebecca Finlay said she liked it best because “it’s all dirt.” She was busy building a sand castle.
Charlotte Conklin liked the telephone best. It’s located by the “car,” a steering wheel that turns. The idea for the “car phone” came from Keri Madonna, who told the architect that if the playground has a “car,” it should have a phone, too.
If you would like to contribute to the playground project, make checks payable to the “New Paltz Community Foundation” and mail them to: Village Hall (Playground Build), 25 Plattekill Avenue, New Paltz NY 12561. Donations can also be made using the Pay Pal link on the New Paltz Community Foundation, Inc. website at https://www.newpaltzfoundation.org. To sign up to volunteer for the build, use this link: https://tinyurl.com/yygeojed