Story by Fred Elmore
Members of the Friends of McCarthy Park, the City of Middletown and the Parks Department, along with many generous vendors and volunteers, pushed hard this summer to complete additional improvements at the park with funding from a Community Development Block Grant. In the past few years, small grants were used for significant changes: a pathway from High Street between Church Street and Loveland Street was created, trees and crocuses planted, five engraved park benches were purchased, and park signs were installed to inform people of the park’s history and that this hidden green space existed.
(Overgrown courts before)
Soon after the signs had been put in place several years ago, the neighborhood saw a significant increase in park use, with families coming for soccer and volleyball games and neighbors taking walks and relaxing there. But as a group of children from Church Street complained, “The sign says that there is a park here, but when you get here, there is nothing to do.”
Well, now that is beginning to change. I went there this weekend with four children to try out the new basketball net and tennis court. When we arrived, the park was already lively with Wesleyan students who were flocking through an additional new park access behind Wes Wings for an ultimate Frisbee game. The slope from the courts to the lower field had been terraced and seeded, and though folks probably should stay off it till the grass is tougher, it was a delight to see the foot and bicycle traffic. The children looked at the new slope and exclaimed that it would be great for sledding this winter.
We walked from Hotchkiss Street up a new path/ramp to the courts with a couple of balls and racquets. We were so excited to see the courts ready for use, cleaned of the usual debris, weeds, and overgrowth (much poison ivy), and the cracks repaired and resurfaced. The girls actually kicked off their shoes to play tennis barefoot, while my son and I tried out the basketball net. First shot-- swish! What a thrill. Within minutes, neighborhood children began appearing and within an hour my kids met five new children, two more adult friends showed up, and we all had a blast -- it was amazing.
I have been living in the neighborhood for over ten years, and this was the first time I really felt like the park was succeeding in a way that I remember the parks of my youth. Though more improvements are needed, I feel the park is really turning a corner.
McCarthy Park is located between Hotchkiss Street and High Street, south of Church Street.
See you at the park!