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Local Group Hopes to Make Ball Field Dream a Reality at State Park

State says master plan needed for park before they consider Kings Park Youth's proposal for ball fields.

John McQuaid stands in the middle of an open field, a large unused tract of land that's perfectly mowed, and scratches his head about a problem that seems to have a very obvious answer, a solution as prominent as the grass he is standing on, but remains out of reach.

“We just want to play ball,” said McQuaid.

McQuaid is a trustee of Kings Park Youth, Kings Park’s largest organized youth sports group. The organization is trying to find a solution to problem that has dogged them for years; the lack of available playing fields for the more than 1,000 kids that make up KPY.

McQuaid shares a story about sitting in a KPY meeting at William T. Rogers Middle School trying to figure out where the kids would be able to hold their practices and play ball. The school sits directly across the street from the Nissequogue River State Park, which is housed on the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center grounds. He decides to start making a plan.

“A couple of years of this, years without playing fields and I got frustrated and said we are literally looking at a piece of property where the state cuts the grass and no one uses it,” said McQuaid, referring to some of the grounds at the park. About that time, McQuaid and the trustees decided to approach the parks department to see if they could work something out.

McQuaid approached Ron Foley, Long Island Regional Director of state Office of Parks and Historic Preservation, who said that the first steps in developing the parkland are creating a master plan for the area, which to date has not been done. The psych center closed its doors in 1996 and the state has been slow to react, only recently beginning demolition work of structures that are either condemned or too beyond repair to save.

As the group waits for a solution, other fields in the area get overused. Kings Park High School has allowed KPY, along with other groups to use their fields, but the constant use has resulted in fields that are not able to be reseeded or properly maintained.

Susan Agruso, district superintendent for Kings Park Schools, said the lack of playing space has caused stress on the school fields.

“So many groups use our fields. We are trying to do work on fields now that the season is over, trying to get grass growing,” said Agruso. “We are looking for other fields around so we can shut down for the whole summer.”

McQuaid adds that so many teams practicing on one field causes a risk to the players on it.

“We have little league kids in one area and in another area older kids practicing who can really hit, that becomes dangerous when you have too many kids in one area. Balls are flying,” said McQuaid.

In a conversation with Patch in June, Foley said, “We aren’t going to make a commitment to any kind of permanent improvements at this point. He (McQuaid) wants to put together a proposal and we are happy to look at the proposal.”

A section of the park is dedicated to the Tiffany Fields soccer pitch, an accommodation made years ago. McQuaid said he wants to see the same accommodation made for KPY.

“We are trying to mimic what is being done already in Tiffany Field, which is under the domain of the parks department,” he said. “Let us carve out a piece of the property and let us care for it.”

The group is willing, and able, to pay for it. McQuaid said $60,000 has already been set aside. A petition, dubbed "Field of Dreams," has also been started and to date has the support of more than 1,000 people.

McQuaid is interested in the area next to the old KPPC firehouse. The field is about three and a half acres and would need some leveling as well as the removal of one or two trees, all work that McQuaid said KPY will pay for.

"We will make the improvements and maintain it" said McQuaid. "We just want to play ball."

nancy abrams July 25, 2012 at 11:55 AM
John I agree that the hospital grounds offer more space, but with some concerns. As demolition starts what will the air quality be for the kids as their lungs will already be working a little harder and expanded sponges for dust and debris. I realize that the company doing the work needs to be environmentally protective, but having lived in Kings Park for 60 years and worked at the hospital, I am also aware of the asbestos issues. All our fields have some issues, but this will be an active sight.
gus schmidt July 26, 2012 at 02:19 AM
asbestos removal a very serious problem should be handled by union labor to start with. baseball field for kids much needed.
KP Chet July 26, 2012 at 02:57 AM
A couple of things have been poignantly affecting our children. 1) The lack of playing fields which impacts the quality learning and the quality of the game for these kids. 2) The concept of sports and how keeping children active and away from poor choices/drug problems that have hit our community. Simply based on that, this project should be welcome. This is a "no brainer" for this town, our kids need this. 99% of us coaches are in this for the development and mentoring of our children and their peers. Who will my son be friends with in High School, will they make good choices? Questions we all ask ourselves. I know the impact of us mom/dad coaches are nothing but positive. We do this in hope for the future for all of the kids. It is more than just a game, it is the extended families we create on the fields, the bonds, the good times and the tough losses. In such tough times, there should always be a place where a bat, a ball and a glove can give a moment of solitude and they way life should be. The greatest commodity is youth.... You never get it back once it is gone. This is a chance to improve our children and their youth. "The one constant through all the years, has been baseball. America is ruled by it like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. " "Field of Dreams"
kathie plant July 26, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Just wondering - are those "one or two old trees" to be removed the massive copper beech trees directly across from Building 93?
Jennifer Sloat (Editor) July 26, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Mike Rosato, Chairman of the Nissequogue River State Park told Patch, "KPY is a member organization of the foundation. The foundation has always believed in forging public-private partnerships to help with the cleanup, restoration and redevelopment of the park for cultural, educational and recreational purposes. Reusing part of the property for new recreational/ball fields for our youth dovetails perfectly with our mission."
Frankie Boy July 26, 2012 at 01:29 PM
I hope they can be avoided. They are spectacular!
max neukirch July 28, 2012 at 01:51 AM
I agree the reuse of that field that use to be where buildings A and B use to reside, as long as those 2 historic trees are relocated and replanted
max neukirch July 28, 2012 at 01:53 AM
those are the only 2 trees that are inbetween where the 2 field sections are . they use to be a border for the 2 buildings built in the 1890's building A and B

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