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Rocketship Park

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A new model will invite kids to Rocketship Park. Photo from Port Jefferson Village

By Elana Glowatz

The new Rocketship Park’s entrance will be a blastoff to the past.

A new model will invite kids to Rocketship Park. Photo from Port Jefferson Village
A new model will invite kids to Rocketship Park. Photo from Port Jefferson Village

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.”

Village Hall is visible in the background of a basketball court at Rocketship Park. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Basketball players could soon be shooting hoops on a fresh surface in downtown Port Jefferson.

Village officials have approved a $15,000 proposal to repair the basketball courts at Rocketship Park, between Barnum Avenue and the municipal parking lot behind Village Hall.

“Our basketball courts are in disrepair out back,” Mayor Margot Garant said at the board of trustees meeting on Monday night.

But there is surplus money the village previously set aside, in the event those courts would have to be completely renovated. Instead, work simply needs to be done to repair cracks and “take away what we call the ‘birdbaths,’ or puddles,” she said.

The plan, which the board approved at its meeting, includes putting in lines for pickleball play at the courts. That sport involves paddles and has similarities to tennis and badminton.

Trustee Stan Loucks, who is the board’s liaison to the Port Jefferson Country Club, said the village feels comfortable hiring East Norwich-based Championship Tennis Courts LLC to do the basketball court project because that same company has done work on the country club’s tennis courts for the last five years.

“They do a terrific job,” Loucks said.

Village park’s redesign unites North Shore community

Port Jefferson middle schoolers Erica Graci, left, and Lucas Welinder, right, display the designs they created that will be turned into two of the tiles that will grace the walls of the park. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Erin Dueñas

It’s been more than two years that a major renovation for Rocketship Park in Port Jefferson Village has been in the works, and according to former village trustee Adrienne Kessel, chair of the committee dedicated to the redesign, it all started with a light.

The overhaul of the park, formally known as the Clifton H. Lee Memorial Park, began after vandals destroyed some of its equipment, prompting the village to look into repairs in addition to added security features, according to Kessel.

“It began with a conversation about adding better lighting but that wasn’t the answer,” she said. “When we went to fix the damaged pieces, we weren’t able to find them. The equipment was obsolete.”

As chair of the Treasure Your Parks committee, which operates under the Port Jefferson Harbor Education and Arts Conservancy, Kessel looked into replacing the playground. During her research she realized that what was already in the park made it nearly impossible for anyone with a disability to enjoy it.

“You can’t even push a stroller through,” Kessel said of the sand that covers the park’s surface. “I thought about a child in a wheelchair or even a parent or guardian in a wheelchair or with a cane and how the park was not accessible to them. That had to change.” The goal for the new park is for it to be accessible to everyone, disabled or not. “Every child should have the chance to play. I couldn’t imagine a park a child couldn’t utilize,” she said.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, both newly constructed and altered facilities that accommodate the public — including recreational facilities such as playgrounds — must be readily accessible by people with disabilities. Kessel said the new park will exceed the ADA guidelines with features such as a poured ground surface that will provide easier mobility, a swing that can accommodate a wheelchair and a bridge feature that even those with limited mobility can use.

“We want everyone to have full freedom of the entire park,” Kessel said.

In addition to play features including a tree-shaped climbing piece called Robins Tree House and a play pirate ship, the park will also include sitting walls, natural looking walkways and shade trees.

The Consalvo family of Port Jefferson, who lost their daughter and sister Danielle to a drunk driver 19 years ago, donated funds to create an “enchanted” entry to the park in her memory. “When we heard about the renovation of the park, we knew this would be the perfect place to sprinkle some of her fairy dust,” said her sister Monica Consalvo.

“This timeless children’s park, which was visited by Danielle herself, brings smiles and laughter to all that visit. What was especially captivating to us was how this park would become one to include all children, not just those that easily walked onto the swing or climbed up the ladder of the slide, but to those who were challenged and needed a helpful hand. How inspiring that our small village would create a park that welcomed all and embraced the opportunity for a special needs child to swing alongside their peers,” she added.

Another planned feature also caught the attention of the Consalvo family. A three-sided, free-standing wall will be included in the park, displaying tiles that can be superimposed with artwork or commemorative messages created by members of the community.

According to Monica, Danielle not only enjoyed the park as a child but was an avid artist who was always drawing or sculpting with clay. “The connection was there,” she said.

Students from Port Jefferson Middle School, where Monica teaches special education, raised funds to purchase two mosaic tiles that would appear on the wall. She then organized a contest open to all the middle schoolers calling for original artwork that would appear on the tiles.

“We left it open as to what should be represented on the tiles. We told them what it would be used for, but they were free to put their creativity on it,” Monica said. The student body then voted on artwork entries, choosing two winning tiles last year created by now eighth-grader Erica Graci and now seventh-grader Lucas Welinder.

“What a legacy for a middle school student to have their design in the heart of our village to one day be shown to their children,” said Monica.

“As educators, we often tell our students to celebrate our differences and embrace our uniqueness, but how often do we get the opportunity to create a moment that brings this message to life?” she asked.

Danielle’s mother, Barbara Consalvo, noted that Lucas’ design struck a familiar chord with the family. “It was something very similar to what Danielle would have done. It was such a coincidence,” she said. Barbara said that her family was happy to contribute to a park her daughter used to go to. “When the opportunity presented itself, we wanted to be a part of it,” she said.

Estimates for the renovation are projected at $550,000. According to Kessel, about half of that amount has been secured, but fundraising efforts continue.

A GoFundMe site has been created and a Party for the Park Under the Harvest Moon fundraiser hosted by Ruvo, 105 Wynn Lane, and Old Fields Restaurant, 318 Wynn Lane, Port Jefferson, is scheduled for Oct. 1 from 7 to 10 p.m. The event will take place outside between the two restaurants. Rain date is Oct. 8. Tickets are $50 in advance by visiting www.rebuildrocketship.org or $60 at the door.