If you build it...
Would nicer Butterfield Park bring business downtown?
ORANGE — “The greening of Orange” is how town officials talk about their ambitious plans to bring more ecologically sustainable businesses into town. But that’s more than just a slogan.
Orange will literally be turning greener as part of its new economic development plan.
Community Development Director Kevin Kennedy has applied for $300,000 from the state to upgrade Butterfield Park, refashioning it as a central place for outdoor community activity in the downtown area.
“Residents and people from out of town can come to the park and we can create a sense of community there that’s not happening now,” he said.
Cemetery and Parks Superintendent Josh Knechtel said he is “very excited about Kevin’s plans for the park ... I’m on board and I’m really looking forward to the future and fixing up the all the parks so that they are really nice places for people to enjoy.”
Kennedy said that a group of volunteers has already planted a dozen or more disease-resistant elm trees in Butterfield and other parks throughout town, replacing some venerable old shade trees that were destroyed in the ice storm two years ago.
The upgrades to Butterfield Park will include building a professional-level ball field attracting leagues from outside the area for games and tournaments.
“We have heard from people running the youth leagues that if we build it today, they will come and play here tomorrow,” Kennedy said. He said construction of a vintage ball field will attract a growing number of players who prefer to play with the old rules and field measurements.
According to Kennedy, people coming into Orange with their child’s ball team, will likely want to grab a bite to eat or poke around the downtown area. That’s the tie-in between park upgrades and the town’s overall economic development plan supporting the growth of eco- and cultural tourism.
“People will come in for the kids’ league and see what else Orange has to offer. And they’ll say, ‘hey, Johnny’s birthday is coming up, we could take him and his friends to the boathouse,’” which was recently refurbished and has become home base for paddling sports on the Millers River, which runs through the center of town.
Project plans also include upgrades to make the existing Butterfield gazebo handicapped accessible. While the park has supported a farmers market on weekends, Kennedy’s plan includes building a structure so that farmers can extend their season.
The availability of fresh food through the park season will make it easier for people to have cookouts and family reunions at the park.