By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
RICHFIELD SPRINGS – About 15 people gathered Sunday, May 24, on Main Street in the village to turn the site of a formerly blighted home into a “pocket park.”
The property at 177 Main St. had been abandoned years ago, one of a handful of old houses in the area that had gotten too run down and where the former owners could not afford to restore it.
The Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank bought the property and demolished the house, but rebuilding on the L-shaped .67-acre property is complicated.
“According to the modern zoning laws, this lot is too narrow in the front to build a house,” said Allysa Dupont Rader, who works as the “zombie quarterback” for the land bank, finding abandoned houses and shepherding them back onto the tax rolls.
The village will revisit the zoning laws this summer, but the location of the property and its status as having the only remaining outdoor, uncovered sulphur spring in the village, made it an ideal candidate for a park in the meantime.
“What we will do with the property is still uncertain,” Dupont Rader said. “So we thought, while we wait to see what happens, why don’t we turn this lot into something the entire community can enjoy.”
For those who enjoy the work, the enjoyment went on for hours Sunday. Richfield Springs Rotary members pitched in mowing, clearing invasive plants and collecting trash.
About a third of the help came from high school students, looking to collect community service hours toward their graduation requirements. Several of them spread soil to build a garden.
“They’re planting pumpkins and zucchinis, so members of the community can come down in the fall and pick their own when they are ripe,” Dupont-Rader said.
The Garden Club of Richfield Springs donated plants and planting help, Local businesses donated materials, including Lowe’s, Dollar General, and Andela Products.
The local Boy Scouts of America troop are going to build a little library box.
Land Bank board member and Richfield resident business owner Dan Sullivan said the project has special meaning to him. “This is exciting for me because I was a founding member of the land bank,” he said.
The community seems to be responding positively to the park.
“It is kind of neat,” said Cyndy Andela, a Rotarian and owner of Andela Products. “You think it is on Route 28, so it is going to be noisy with cars, but then you come back here to the back of the property and it is very peaceful, with the sound of the stream and with nature.
“I am going to come here at lunchtime, just to enjoy the quiet,” Andela said.