BATAVIA — A former town of Batavia planning official was praised for his “vision” Wednesday night as the town dedicated a new Kiwanis Park boat launch in his name and unveiled plans for enhancements at the recreational facility on West Main Road.
John O’Brien, former longtime chairman of the town Planning Board, said he never thought the park, which opened in 1981, would develop into such an attraction.
“I had no idea it was going to mushroom to the proportion that it has,” he said.
The park was initially suggested by O’Brien, as Planning Board chairman, and Murray Morrow, a member of the Batavia Kiwanis Club, back in 1975. It was developed on about 15 acres of vacant land the town bought from private owners with the help of $50,000 in federal funds.
The park contains playground equipment, two pavilions, picnic tables and a tennis court, in addition to the boat launch for canoes and kayaks that is located at the west end of the facility. The launch was created with an inlet to the Tonawanda Creek that flows along the south side of the park.
Town Supervisor Greg Post said the park was the result of O’Brien’s “vision.”
O’Brien said he appreciated the honor. “And I appreciate all the wonderful people being here,” he said.
About 40 people turned out for the dedication that came during a rare outdoor meeting of the Town Board at the park. Post said it was the town’s first outdoor session “in a long time.”
Board members conducted their meeting under a tent with rows of chairs for spectators. The weather cooperated with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 70s.
Murray Morrow’s widow and a son were among those in attendance. State Assemblyman Steve Hawley presented O’Brien with a congratulatory proclamation.
Officials said the boat launch was in initial plans for the park, but was deleted for lack of funding. It was put in this year with a $6,000 grant from the Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District to promote recreational access to the creek.
“This just turned out wonderful,” O’Brien said of the boat launch.
Aside from the dedication, town Councilwoman Patti Michalak announced plans for adding handicapped-accessible playground equipment, including wheelchair swings, to make the park an all-inclusive facility for all children.
“We want children to be able to play together,” she said.
Michalak said the idea for the enhanced development was started by Post in May and grew as she and town Engineer Tom Lichtenthal started talking about it.
Michalak is a member of the town’s Parks and Recreation Committee. Inclusiveness is the key ingredient, she said, in developing a facility that would include an accessible fishing pier, walkways for wheelchairs and a public play area for youngsters with disabilities.
“We want to include everybody,” she said.
Michalak said the project is estimated to cost around $125,000. Grants might be sought, but it should be pretty much funded by donations, she said.
Genesee ARC, the town Fire Department, service clubs and businesses are being asked to contribute, along with volunteers and donors from the community.
Michalak said supporters would love to have the enhancements in by next spring. “That’s our goal,” she said.
The town is looking for volunteers as well as donations. Michalak said interested persons can contract her at the Town Hall.