MASSENA - A Massena native who was involved with the construction of the Creative Playground in 1991 is mounting a campaign to try and save the wooden playground on Danforth Place.
Bronic “Bud” Zagrobelny says he remembers how the community rallied around the park when it was created, and he hopes they’ll do the same now that town and village officials have shared a desire to tear it down and replace it with a newer playground.
“There were hundreds and hundreds of people that were volunteering and working on it. I was running different businesses in town, and I was a part of it like everybody else,” Mr. Zagrobelny said during a telephone interview from Port St. Lucie, Fla.
He started a Facebook page called “Save Massena’s Playground” on Thursday. It’s located at https://www.facebook.com/MassenaPlayground and, as of Friday, had more than 140 “likes.”
He encourages visitors to the page to share their support for the playground.
“Perhaps, in compiling the many voices across our community on one page, we can show those who would tear it down, without a community discussion, that rebuilding it, together, will once again unite the community in a common cause that affects everyone,” he said. “I’m just trying to increase awareness and come up with ideas that people may not have already thought about.”
Mr. Zagrobelny said he’s not necessarily leading the charge, because he has seen that there is plenty of community support for saving the playground.
“I’m not living in town right now. I just came up with this one idea, just to get the word out so more people know. I don’t know if I’m taking the lead. I’m just kind of adding to it. If you want to really rally the community, you do things like this. One of the things I’m trying to bring out is Massena needs something good to happen,” he said.
Because he’s in Florida, Mr. Zagrobelny said he wasn’t aware of the plans for the playground until people from Massena told him in a Facebook posting.
“I wasn’t aware that this was going on,” he said. “I thought it was crazy. First of all, the wooden stuff is anchored in like you wouldn’t believe. Jerry Sharlow was telling me the other day that a whole bunch of policemen got together and were pounding a lot of the initial poles in the ground.”
Mr. Zagrobelny said that he has known Mayor James F. Hidy and Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray for a long time and respects their thoughts about the playground.
“These guys are intelligent. They’re friends of mine. They all want to do what’s good for the community,” he said.
But at the same time, he said, they’re talking about taking down a park that brought a community together when it was built and could do the same if it was simply fixed .
“There were organized groups for different phases of it. The whole thing was overseen by the company that designed and created it. They did this in communities all over America, including here in Port St. Lucie,” he said.
Rotarian John Murray said three service clubs - the Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions Club - were involved.
“A lot of us were involved in the actual work and organization. It was like a weekend project. Everybody came in and really worked out. Everybody just got together and decided that we were going to do it,” he said.
“I remember distinctly that it was on a weekend. I was disappointed because I had to go away for a Rotary conference and could only work one day. A lot of people worked hard. It was a great feeling of accomplishment in the community when we got together. They had a big tractor-trailer on site with all the tools. We did the grunt work. We had a lot of grunts,” Mr. Murray said.
Once the park was completed, the area was a frequent site of activity, Mr. Zagrobelny said.
“When I was kid we used to play baseball there in the summer program. Jim Long was the head of the Recreation Commission and all of the parks and school fields were filled with kids playing baseball in the summer. You go from the end of that property down to West Orvis, with the original high school and junior high being there and the playground and tennis courts. As you go down the hill the skating rink was there. It was a historic three blocks,” he said.
Mr. Zagrobelny said he’d like to see the playground restored to its former self, and he says others have indicated they would also chip in.
“I’ll take a couple of weeks off down here and go up and help. My mom lives there, my nieces and nephews live there. Everybody that I’ve talked to so far said they’re willing to donate time or whatever. I haven’t heard anybody tell me, ‘No, we shouldn’t try to rescue it,’” he said.
“The playground can be saved. We built it with a great deal of sweat and love, and they came. It was a fantastic, safe environment for our children,” Mr. Zagrobelny said. “If it needs fixing up, we’ll get some volunteers that will be more than happy to pitch in, just like when it first rose out of the ground. Local businesses would surely offer screws, stain, lumber, paint, and some cordless drills and other tools, so that this resurrection can happen.”