Recycling Brings Inclusive Playground One Step Closer
By Eugenia Moskowitz
Washingtonville moms and kids recently enjoyed musical movement with New Generation Dance last week at one of the Washingtonville Lions Club picnic gatherings at the 9/11 Firemen’s Memorial Park playground as the Lions Den Inclusive Playground works its way closer to becoming a reality.
Brainstormed by Washingtonville native Celina Rofer, the Lions Club has taken the initiative to expand the current playground at the park into a larger inclusive playground with structural elements which can be used by all children, including those with special challenges. The elements in the new playground (built by the same company as the existing one) will be attractive to all children and draw more adults and kids to what parents say is an underused local gem. Detailed plan drawings can be found on the “Greater Washingtonville Lions” Facebook page, with links to renderings as well as video of the structural pieces in motion.
The playground expansion is being funded through an ongoing massive bottle-deposit recycling effort which has now reached 100,000 bottles and cans gathered by supplying bins to residents’ events and summertime parties, at Washingtonville elementary schools, and at businesses around Washingtonville, New Windsor, Goshen, Montgomery, and Middletown. “My recycling goal is one million bottles and cans,” Rofer said. “People think I’m nuts but that translates into money which would fund the blue flooring to make the playground truly accessible for all mobility devices.” That’s just one feature of the new playground, there are many others.
Funding also is being generated by a grant from Assemblyman James Skoufis, as well as the recent Washingtonville Home t-shirt fundraiser. Rofer said, “We also have picnic Fridays at the playground, where people can bring their little ones of all abilities and learn about both the playground and The Lions Club. We start at 5:30 and end at sundown; upcoming dates are announced on our Facebook page.”
Last spring, Rofer gave a detailed presentation to Washingtonville Mayor Joe Bucco and the village board, after which the playground was approved unanimously as a great addition to Washingtonville. A video of Rofer’s presentation can be found by going to the village website and clicking on the village YouTube channel, where all board meeting videos are posted. The new expanded playground will enlarge the playground’s current space near the 9/11 Firemens’ Memorial, which was established a year after September 11 at the center of the park, and will not encroach on that memorial space.
Signs of rebirth at other Washingtonville parks are evident all around the village. A grant written by the Bucco administration and secured by Skoufis has been set to fund upgrades for the trio of parks along Ahern Blvd. — Vern Allen Park, 9/11 Memorial Park, and Woodfield/Skateboard Park. These upgrades will transform Ahern into a multi-use recreational strip from Route 94 all the way to North Street. Plans include a splash pad and dog park. These parks are the locations for important community events such as the Date Night outdoor movie and concert series, festivals such as Witchingtonville and the Easter Bonnet Parade/Egg Hunt (which draw people from all over Orange County), and sports games and practices. The new upscale Highgrove housing development, which runs from Bull Road and opens out at Woodfield/Skateboard Park, means more people will have easy access to them. Bucco said, “Working with Assemblyman Skoufis for these grants has always been a pleasure and we look forward to working with him in the future.”
In addition, drawings for the new Sewell Community Park across from the middle school can be found by contacting Bucco at Village Hall. A grandmother of four who has lived here since 1997 and is excited about Sewell Park said, “The amount of community involvement growing under Bucco’s short time in office is refreshing to see. Our village is fertile ground again.”
As for the Lions Den Inclusive Playground, Rofer said she still can’t believe she has taken on such a huge project. “People have told me I’m crazy to dream so big,” she said, “but here I am doing it. And it’s going to be great.” (Those wishing to donate their recyclables can find Rofer’s contact information at the end of this article.)
The Lions Club will host an Ability Awareness Workshop on Aug. 16, 7:30-9:00 p.m., at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Hallock Drive, with education advocate Diane Troeller of Independent Living Inc. and Assemblyman James Skoufis as guest speakers. Those interested in attending this event, or wishing to get involved with the Lions Den Inclusive Playground, can email Rofer at GtrWashLions@gmail.com or text her at 845-492-1715.
CAPTION 1: Parents and children dance on the grass at the most recent Picnic Friday beside the current playground in 9/11 Memorial Park. (Photo provided)
CAPTION 2: Washingtonville resident Melissa Adams models one of the popular “Washingtonville Home” fundraising t-shirts. (Photo by Eugenia Moskowitz)