Island Park reborn, thanks to volunteers who caredNow operating as a non-profit organization named the Milltown Island Park Association, lead organizer Kay Brown is bringing the park back through the help of local volunteers.
By: Marcus Traxler, The Daily Republic
MILLTOWN — In a relatively short period, Milltown’s Island Park is being reborn.
Now operating as a non-profit organization named the Milltown Island Park Association, lead organizer Kay Brown is bringing the park back through the help of local volunteers.
The association’s articles of incorporation was approved July 6 by Secretary of State Jason Gant, officially making the group a legal, non-profit organization.
The group’s mission statement defines the association as “a community-based organization whose primary purpose is to restore, preserve and maintain Milltown Island Park for recreational and public use.”
Our Home, a local youth treatment facility which has owned the park since 1994, will work out an agreement for the Milltown Island Park Association to own the park. The process is expected to be completed very soon. The park will continue to be named after Bruce Maxwell, a Parkston native who helped maintain the park for Our Home until he died in 2008. Our Home still plans to use the park, as well.
The first step has included cleaning the park up after the park fell into disarray from James River flooding in 2010 and 2011 and was not cleaned up. The park, which was founded in 1919, has had the grass mowed, trees trimmed and weeds sprayed. Trash barrels have been setup and potholes have been filled on the driveway into the park.
Brown called it a “labor of love.”
“The cleanup has been a constant thing and we have an incredible group of volunteers who have been working on the park in recent weeks,” she said. “We wouldn’t be as far along as we are if it weren’t for their help.”
Separate committees have been put in charge of various park duties, including leading the restoration, maintaining the park on a regular basis, placing historical markers at the park and setting up events. They are also planning on setting up a website to connect people from around the country to what is happening at Island Park.
Harvey Hanselman, of rural Ethan, is one of the leaders of the 15 to 20 volunteers donating their time to the park. He’s been coming there a few days a week and said the support of people working together has been great.
“These days, it’s rare to find the type of community support that we’ve had recently when working on the park,” Hanselman said. “It’s unbelievable.”
To say Brown has big plans for the park’s future might be an understatement.
There are plans to upgrade the softball diamond, the picnic shelter and the playground equipment. Brown said the bathrooms will be repainted and will have picnic tables donated. According to Hanselman, volunteers are working on getting electricity hooked up again.
Brown is shooting for late September for an official re-opening celebration of Island Park, with a potluck picnic planned for the day.
Even an eventual annual outdoor concert is even in the list of long-term goals.
Of course, funds will be required for the long-term goals of the park. The association is planning on selling household memberships to those who would like support the park on a yearly basis. Brown estimated they would be priced around $25 per family a year. She said the initial goal is to raise $10,000 through donations to get some of the group’s initial projects under way.
For now, the volunteers continue on the task.
Hanselman said he hopes that when the campground fully reopens that users pick up after themselves and keep the park in good shape.
He said he’s already seen that happen when a group of youngsters from Freeman camped on the island and their space was cleaned up a few days later.
The support of locals who care as much about Island Park as Brown does has her confident the group will be a success, even when the James River’s waters run onto the park.
“No matter how much it does flood, we’ll have to be ready to clean it up right away when it happens,” Hanselman said.
He has one request for the refurbished park. A Vietnam War veteran, he’s hoping he can find a flagpole to be donated to the park, whether it’s from an old school or somewhere else that isn’t using it anymore.
“It would be great if we could have the American flag flying there again,” he said.
Given the state of the park just two months ago, Island Park has already come a long way. So far, Brown is downright giddy about how well it’s worked out.
“There’s a lot of givers and takers out there in the world and we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of givers,” Brown said.
For more information
The Milltown Island Park Association is planning to hold a meeting July 27 at Island Park. The group will be formulating bylaws and discussing a membership setup for the organization. For questions, email Kay Brown at email@example.com.