By Alex Petroski
It was like Christmas in June for kids in Port Jefferson, as an iconic village park is finally ready for a new launch. Rocketship Park, located on Maple Place between Mill Creek Road and Barnum Avenue, had been closed since the fall for a massive renovation project that saw funds pour in from private donations, fundraising events, grants and taxpayer dollars. At least 200 kids lined the fences June 15 eagerly waiting for the official ribbon cutting to try out the new equipment for the first time, which now includes a tree house, pirate ship and of course, a rocket ship.
The refurbishment effort was done thanks in large part to a three and a half year mission by the Port Jefferson “Treasure Your Parks” campaign, an initiative created to help give a facelift to the more than 50-year-old Clifton H. Lee Memorial Park, which has commonly been known as Rocketship Park. Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket); Jennifer Martin, a representative from Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright’s (D-Port Jefferson Station) office; the 2016 New York State championship runner up Port Jefferson High School girls basketball team, and droves of excited local kids joined members of the Port Jeff Village board and Mayor Margot Garant to cut the ribbon and officially open the park for the summer.
Garant also recognized two Port Jeff kids, Cooper and McKenna Negus, who collected change in a jar and periodically went to village hall to contribute to the fundraising efforts for the park. The mayor said she planned to use the money to purchase a tile to commemorate the generous young donors.
“Everyday we were building this park we’d have kids hanging out on the outside of the fence saying ‘when can we come and play,’” Garant said. “It’s all about the kids right?”
Garant added the park will be under video surveillance and asked that all those who visit the park help to ensure it remains clean, and free of graffiti, vandalism and litter.
The total cost of the project was about $900,000, with $500,000 coming from taxpayer dollars, $265,000 from a New York State parks grant and about $120,000 from donations, according to Barbara Sakovich, assistant to the mayor.
This version was updated June 16 to include the total cost and breakdown of funding for the park renovation. It was edited June 19 to correct that it will still be officially called Clifton H. Lee Memorial Park and commonly referred to as Rocketship Park.