Polishing the town jewel: Van Buren Park

Outdoor enthusiast Jim Sollecito is in the business of spreading cheer.

Every year, Sollecito hosts a family fishing fun night at Van Buren Park. He typically stocks the park pond with trout from Carpenter's Brook Fish Hatchery. Although the pond was too warm (it was 72 degrees) to stock with fish last Wednesday, several children were able to learn the basics of fishing while trying to catch either bass or sunfish.

"The order of the day are worms," Sollecito said as he hooked a worm onto a fishing pole.

Sollecito taught children (and adults) how to tie a line, hook worms, cast a pole and reel in fish. He even gave a beginner's lesson on the art of fly-fishing to this reporter.

Already familiar with the basics of fishing, Noah Evans, a second grader at Reynolds Elementary, imparted his own wisdom while worming his hook.

"If you want to learn how to be a fisherman, you have to learn how to do the work," he said.

Sisters Mary (a third grader at Elden) and Emily Arthur (a seventh-grader at Ray) came to the park with their mother Michelle and while they wouldn't worm their own hook, the girls did catch some sunfish.

All together, there were only a handful of people at the event, but Sollecito said there isn't a night that you can come down to the pond without seeing people fishing.

Open fishing

Sollecito's interest in the pond began about 28 years ago, when he asked the town board to open it for public fishing.

"I stood at the board meetings with a rod in my hand," he said until they approved his request.

Now, Van Buren Pond is open to residents and non-residents alike. Every April, the pond is stocked with 200 rainbow trout, in addition to the bass and sunfish that already reside in the pond. Those who want to fish must follow NYS rules and regulations.

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