Guests were put to work at the May 16 groundbreaking ceremony for the Butternut Creek Recreation and Nature Area. Gathered at the future site of the new park, enthusiastic supporters huddled together with shovels in hand to be part of the project's very first dig into the dirt.
Kim Ball, director of parks and recreation, said there are enough funds right now to complete about 50 percent of the project that has been in the works since 2003. The town project moved from the back to the front burner when the DeWitt Rotary Club stepped in to help support fundraising efforts.
Rotary International marked its 100-year anniversary in 2005 and all clubs were asked to adopt and embrace a local community project as part of its centennial celebration. DeWitt Rotary picked the park. In just three short years, Rotarians raised $25,000 in cash donations and even more in grants.
"Because of our involvement we were instrumental in having the [Central New York] Community Foundation make an additional grant of $35,000," said DeWitt Rotarian Don Byrnes. "We were [also] instrumental in helping the town get the state to kick in another $60,000."
The fundraising, though, is ongoing and the May 16 event was just the kick off to phase one of the four-part plan that is scheduled to begin construction this summer. The cost to complete the project is $770,000 according to a brochure backed by the town of DeWitt and the DeWitt Rotarians. Byrnes said phase one costs around $250,000.
The fully accessible 63-acre park will feature 1.7 miles of trails, including just under a half mile of elevated boardwalk and interpretive trails. Two trailheads and accompanying kiosks and signage are planned for each end of the park. The park will also provide a fishing dock and canoe access to Butternut Creek.