“I like baseball. I like parks. I love communities like this and that’s why we are here today.” were the words of Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro as he helped to stage the groundbreaking event for the revitalization of Millerton New York’s historic Eddie Collins Memorial Park. Along with an afternoon of entertainment provided by local favorites like BeeBee the Clown and Connecticut-based band The Joint Chiefs, Molinaro spoke along with fellow community leaders Christopher Kennan, the Town of North East’s Supervisor, Dutchess County Legislator Gregg Pulver, Millerton’s Mayor Jennifer Najdek and State Senator Sue Serino.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Doster Photography

The county’s executive would go on to surprise and delight the attending crowd with the announcement of $325,000 dollar award toward the park’s renovations on behalf of Dutchess County. Revitalization efforts began in 2016 when Committee Chairman Stephen Waite approached the Village Board with a recommendation for a community-wide survey to gauge resident interest in restoring the aging park. Waite and his team of volunteers received a grant to begin updates and since then, thanks to their hard work, the park has received a Community Development Block Grant of $152,000 and a $600,000 grant from the New York State Office of Parks and Historic Preservation as well as donations from over 150 individuals, businesses and foundations from around the community totaling $1.5 million. Multi-disciplinary firm Chazen Companies was selected to create the park’s plan which has since been approved and is now under construction for its final phase.

Eddie Collins Memorial Park, today using the name Millerton Community Park to reflect its expanded future use, has a long history as a center of sports, recreation, and social life in the community and is the only public facility with athletic fields, a playground for children with physical disabilities, and open space for large gatherings and events in the Village of Millerton. In 1963, the park’s informal status as the home of local baseball was made official. A brick arch in honor of major leaguer Edward Trowbridge Collins—born in Millerton in 1887 and inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939—was installed at the park’s entrance. The surprise $325,000 award announcement made Saturday will complete the funding for Phase 1 of the revitalization that includes two new basketball courts, a regulation size soccer field, the renovation of the playground, a new entrance with parking along with plenty of trees, rain gardens and benches.

The Park will reopen in the spring of 2022. Meanwhile, fundraising has begun for the most anticipated feature of the new park: a swimming pool. The previous pool, named for its donor, William Denney, was a beloved attraction for 50 years before it closed in 2015 because of structural damage.

For members of the park’s Revitalization Committee, a place for communal recreation and social connection is needed more than ever. Saturday’s successful groundbreaking event, the hard work of volunteers, along with the community’s generous support hope to highlight the critical importance of community life and the need for spacious, safe outdoor gathering places.

To learn more about the Millerton Community Park initiative, and for ways to contribute, visit millertonpark.org

Leaders and families gather for first official groundbreaking. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Doster Photography

Millerton Mayor Jennifer Najdek addressing the crowd on Saturday at Millerton’s Community Park