Elk Street Park project gets groundbreaking

From left; Richard Beekman, Assemblyman Robert Smullen, Gloversville Councilman-at-Large William Rowback Jr., Michael Medina, Fulton County Center for Regional Growth President and CEO Ronald Peters and Gloversville 3rd Ward Councilwoman Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Batchelor help officially break ground on the Elk Street Park revitalization project in Gloversville on Thursday. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

GLOVERSVILLE — Local officials and community members celebrated the culmination of over a year’s worth of effort during a groundbreaking ceremony at Elk Street Park on Thursday with plans to revitalize the well-worn park and basketball court to be completed in the weeks ahead.

Throughout 2019, the city, the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth and community members worked together to develop plans to improve the Elk Street Park to shore up the condition of the park for its continued use by community members and enhance the appearance of the public space to rebrand it as a gateway to the center of the city.

After finalizing design elements and successfully carrying out several community fundraisers to support the project, organizers planned to begin work on the park revitalization in the spring. Those plans were delayed due to the coronavirus, but plans are now on track for the first phase of the project to be completed this fall.

“It’s a great day for this area in Gloversville,” said CRG President and CEO Ronald Peters welcoming those in attendance for the official groundbreaking ceremony at the park on Thursday.

Attendants at the ceremony wore face masks and stood on markers spaced out at least six feet apart following a temperature screening upon arrival.

Peters went on to commend the efforts of those involved in the development of the project that will recast Elk Street Park as a gateway to the city’s downtown upon completion.

Third Ward Councilwoman Elizabeth “Betsy” Batchelor, who served on the project planning committee, thanked those involved in bringing the project to fruition including Michael Medina of the Fulton County Barbershop and former Gloversville High School varsity basketball coach Aric Kucel who organized and hosted fundraisers to support the project.

She also thanked the families of Shauna Beekman and Anthony “Ice” Coger whose memories will be honored through a commemorative banner designed by recent Gloversville High School graduates Kadin O’Shaughnessy and Dante Bouchard to be installed at the park likely in the spring to continue the tradition of previously created memorials at the basketball court they each frequented.

Batchelor acknowledged that when she became involved in the already developing project she was unfamiliar with the community the park served and learned through her involvement about admittedly false assumptions she held.

“Without the families of both the Beekmans and the Cogers who are both honored by this park none of this would have happened,” said Batchelor. “I thank them for trusting my heart that I wasn’t trying to do anything except make this thing happen and I’m very pleased that everybody is here.”

Richard Beekman, Shauna Beekman’s father, following the ceremony acknowledged that he was not made aware of the project by the city until planning was already well underway. While he described that lapse as “unfortunate,” Richard Beekman described plans to improve the park that he played at as a child and that his daughter frequented as a “good thing.”

“It’s important to the community,” said Richard Beekman.

He added that plans to honor the memories of his daughter and Coger at the park are a nice gesture.

“How can you be upset about something like that,” said Richard Beekman.

Those in attendance Thursday showed enthusiasm the project that in the coming weeks will see the basketball court resurfaced, bumpers around the court repainted and the surrounding fence replaced. Additionally, landscaping work will be completed in the park area alongside the court to improve the overall aesthetics and functionality of the space.

In the spring a mural designed by recent Gloversville High School graduate Kaylin Lee selected from several submission through a community survey will be painted on the surface of the basketball court.

The city has planned additional improvements for the park to be implemented in future stages, including plans to expand the park across adjacent parcels of vacant land recently acquired by the city. Batchelor noted that so supplement additional fundraising initiatives the city hoped to access state funding to support the next stage of the project before the coronavirus created a state budget crisis. But she said the city is committed to seeing the project through.

“We won’t give up until your park looks the way you want,” said Batchelor. “It’s just been an incredible, wonderful learning experience and I am so proud of everybody.”

After city, county and state officials lifted ceremonial shovels alongside community members to officially break ground on the Elk Street Park revitalization project, Councilman-at-Large William Rowback Jr. thanked those who came out to take in the start of what he said is one of many revitalization projects in the offing for the city.

“This is one of many things that we are working on throughout the city. This is just a stepping stone for our community to come together as one,” said Rowback.

By Paul Wager