Town of Salina
Burnham and Richfield Parks were under the jurisdiction of the Mattydale-Hinsdale Park District (MHPD). The district levied a special tax to the residents within the district to fund programming and equipment. The property, now referred to as Burnham Park, had originally been assigned to the U. S. Marine Corps under the Department of the Interior. When designated surplus property, it could be acquired only by a municipality; MHPD did not meet that criteria. Around 1978 an application was filed and I am happy to report the deed was transferred to the town of Salina. Rules and regs were stringent. I was required to file a detailed annual report that included a mountain of paperwork; imagine that! I was delighted when the United States Department of the Interior’s office in Boston, Massachusetts, turned over its watchdog responsibilities to the New York State Office of Parks and Recreation in Jamesville. To think I could actually dial a number and talk to a real person.
MHPD was using a relatively small area of the park, so planning began immediately on the larger undeveloped portion. First on the agenda was corrective action on a number of problems before we could even think about development. They ranged from drainage to vandal hideouts in the woods to bedsprings. Perhaps it was a desk sergeant trying to come under budget or, for convenience, who made the decision to bury the springs from torn-down barracks when the military moved on in the 1950s? We probably had more money in downtime replacing spike teeth on our tine harrow than the springs were originally worth! Today the beautiful, well-groomed softball field on the corner of Malden Road and Westwood Avenue gives no hint of a bedsprings burial ground.
New development included additional playing fields and facilities for softball, little league, football, soccer and upgrades on existing fields on just about every inch of the park. To secure funding, federal grants operated on a point system. The more inclusive an applicant, the better the chances for success. Programs were proposed from tiny tots to seniors and even included a fitness trail because — you guessed it — more points. Eventually we had a firemen’s league, radio stations playing police departments, a military league, senior citizen concerts, a summer playground program, the large annual BOCES picnics and more.
Soon after Richfield Park was acquired by the town from MHPD, plans were developed to construct a swimming pool. I had gone to the town board asking for one pool and walked away that night with two — Electronics and Richfield! We tried ice skating, as well, with a tad more success than other parks because of an eight-foot fence we locked at night, a disappointment to vandals. This time, though, Mother Nature did us in by moving on to her next adventure prematurely. The melting and freezing clogged the drainage grate causing ponding, therefore posing a danger, especially, to smaller children. The decision was made to lock the park until corrective action could be forthcoming. The next day in the Syracuse paper was a picture of a girl with ice skates over her shoulder and padlock in hand. The caption: “Park officials lock kids out of park.” You’ve got to have a sense of humor to be a parks director.
Schaffer Park is a neighborhood park and the smallest in the system. Before the town of Salina created a parks and recreation department, programming was sponsored by the Lyncourt Youth Project Inc. and funded by the Lyncourt school district. The park was open for supervised summer playgrounds as well as well as leisure-time activities on a casual basis. As the town began to fulfill its mission to umbrella all areas across Salina, funding and programming eventually came to Schaffer Park, thus relieving residents in the fourth ward from being doubly taxed much the same as relief given taxpayers within the Mattydale-Hinsdale Park District.
Next week: Swimming pools come to Salina.