By Elana Glowatz
The new Rocketship Park’s entrance will be a blastoff to the past.
Port Jefferson Village announced on Tuesday that TRITEC Real Estate Company has built and donated a rocket ship model to go in the playground once it’s reconstructed, paying tribute to its past.
While it’s formally known as Clifton H. Lee Memorial Park or Kip Lee Park, the spot off Barnum Avenue at Roessner Lane got the Rocketship nickname from a popular piece of playground equipment that has since aged out of use. Some residents have lamented the loss of the rocket and the fact that the design plans for the new park, which began forming a few years ago, didn’t include one.
The plans call for more natural-looking playground equipment with a high level of handicap-accessibility, including what looks like a giant tree house and a pirate ship that harkens back to the village’s shipbuilding days. There are also plans for swings with different types of seating, walkways, picnic tables, plantings and other play equipment.
Adrienne Kessel, the chair of the Treasure Your Parks Committee that has fundraised for the park reconstruction and operates under the Port Jefferson Harbor Education and Arts Conservancy, previously said play equipment that looks like a rocket is hard to find.
Kessel launched the effort to revamp the downtown children’s park when she was a village trustee. After looking at security features in the wake of vandalism at the site, Kessel saw the need for a full makeover.
“It began with a conversation about adding better lighting but that wasn’t the answer,” she said in a previous interview. “When we went to fix the damaged pieces, we weren’t able to find them. The equipment was obsolete.”
She focused on increased accessibility for kids with special needs because, “Every child should have the chance to play. I couldn’t imagine a park a child couldn’t utilize.”
The reconstruction is expected to cost roughly $550,000 and as of this week, village spokeswoman Jill Russell said, the committee had brought in more than $200,000 toward that goal, between donations of both money and services.
According to the village’s rocket announcement, the first work phase is scheduled to start in October.
TRITEC, which is also working on an apartment complex on the other side of Barnum Avenue at West Broadway, built the rocket ship so that when the park is redone, it “will serve as a lasting reminder of the original rocket ship that first graced the park in 1972,” the village said in a statement.
The company worked on the project for the nonprofit Long Island Home Builders Care, with the help of Huntington-based Kleet Lumber Co., Long Island-based Pro-Coat Painting, and sprinkler system contractor Central Outdoor Services in Port Jefferson Station.
“The model will be placed alongside the entranceway to the new playground and will incorporate ornamental plaques into the design that will highlight the park’s history as well as the generous contributions from the playground’s in-kind donors,” the village said.
Russell explained that the historical information will make mention of the previous rocket: “So that when you come to Rocketship Park, you actually know why it’s called that.”