may 2023 newsletter
April 2023 newsletter
March 2023 Newsletter
Febuary 2023 Newsletter
January 2023 Newsletter
It's been a battle, but I want to catch you all up with the status of the bridge project. It's been quite the journey, but we re upon a landmark time for Harrybrooke Park.
To catch everyone up, the bridge was declared unsafe in November of 2021. This was due to a self imposed inspection. You see in 2018 we performed a routine safety inspection. We were told in 2018 that it passed, but they recommended we revisit it in five years to see the progression.
While there is no official record to the bridge, we estimate it was built after the flood of 1955. This was the second bridge built in that location. The first was built by Frank Harden between 1941 and 1943. It was washed out and we are estimating that was in the great flood that decimated the town.
So in November 2021, we decided to have it checked early, prior to the anticipated five-year plan. Upon inspection, the steel holding up the bridge had become detached on the Lanesville Road side. It was recommended we close it to all traffic to salvage the strength it still had.
The quotes given from the engineers were massive. Almost six million dollars to replace the bridge. Unfathomable. Since we are recognized as a historic property by the state, we asked if restoration was possible. After drilling, we were told that it would be an option, dropping the estimate to $1.94 million. Still a very difficult number for us to absorb.
We asked if there could be any temporary fix and were told yes, and a cost of $126,000 in the estimate. This would be a temporary fix that we are told can last two to three years.
Most people do not realize that Harrybrooke Park is a nonprofit 501c3 and not a municipal or state park. This makes it even more difficult to raise the dollars or to find grants, which we are doing almost daily.
We reached out to the community as the park is "The People's Park" to ask for your help in restoration. While every dollar counts, in the last 6 months we have raised just $2,400 from general donation. It was very generous, but far short of our goal of $126,000.
Luckily, Mayor Pete Bass stepped in to offer assistance in this temporary fix. With the recent American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, the town could allocate the $126,000 to the park to pay for the temporary fix. This would allow us to remain open for upcoming events, weddings and regular pavilion rentals, allowing us to maintain the small amount of revenue we have to keep the park open.
In the meantime we are discussing the use of state ARPA funds with Governor Lamont's office as well in the hopes of state support and funding to cross that finish line. This takes time but the wheels are in motion.
In the meantime, a contractor has been chosen and will begin restoration next week! We are hopeful that the project can be completed prior to Memorial Day, but the contractor is confident that it will certainly be done by the end of the month with a firm My 30th finish time.
So this all means that we will re-open the regular routine pretty soon. Thank you all for your ongoing support and understanding. Within a couple weeks, let's hope we are driving on the bridge :)
Well, I just noticed that we have ignored this blog for a year so I now know my resolution for 2022 I guess. Tomorrow night we bid adieu to a year many of us are happy to see go. A second year of a pandemic, a second year of shortages and fear ... yet here we stand, facing the next year already. It seems like only yesterday where we couldn't get toilet paper or Lysol. We still fight for quotes from contractors who are all backed up, but more on that later.
So with two years of chaos, fear and turmoil, I still say THANK YOU. We are able to move forward because of the strength we find in each other. Speaking for the park itself, we are able to see more change and growth thanks to you. Your support is not JUST appreciated but vital to the our survival. We do not just look to survive, but thrive into 2022. Here are a few things on tap, a hope chest of sorts, for Harrybrooke Park.
The bridge leaving the park (once the entrance) is a large focus this year. We have recently done some tests on the footings and are waiting the results from the engineers. In the next 4 years or so, we must address the need to restore or (God forbid) replace the bridge. Frank Harden built the bridge when he first moved in back in 1942. I have photos of its construction. The bridge was washed out once (perhaps in the flood of 55?) and rebuilt. It has not bee worked on since, hence our 4 ton weight limit. We hope to have a solution on what we are able to do bout it this year.
When i was a child coming to this park in the 70's, the pond was about 12-15 feet deep. Now it sits at about 4 feet deep. Silt, needles and goose poop have truly filled it up. We are awaiting a quote (busy contractors) to dredge the pond this summer if we are lucky. It's a priority for us, but we must time it properly and are still awaiting the permitting as well.
The Conn area bathroom building
If you haven't noticed, the bathrooms are updated a bit by the Conn pavilion. This is thanks to several people who made the project happen and come to completion. Home Depot made some generous fixture donations, Mike Hopp of Hammertime framed and drywalled while Kenny Barron did all of the plumbing. Deak Electric ran the wiring and our own Craig (our park caregiver) finished with painting and securing the fixtures. A collaborative team effort leaned it up a lot, but there is work to be done. Oh and all of the contracting work? Donated. Amazing.
The building itself needs to be cleaned and painted. The other half of the structure we are getting quotes on currently (busy contractors) and hope to make into a small kitchenette and serving bar for rental. This will go well with our wedding caterers too!
The barn (big garage)
As many of you know Craig by now (coming into his third season as our care-giver) you'll notice the work he does. Beautification of the park is only second to his safety awareness. He has cleared the two back bays to convert them into a carpentry workshop. He will be planing and painting the picnic tables from around the park. We have 52 tables. Insane right? Many of them need work so this is his "side project" that will take some time.
That bay is not heated.The barn is not heated. SO BIG THANKS to Bob O'Rourke who told us about a program we qualified for. Then to our friends at Marandola Fuel who have arranged a furnace to be donated to the park to heat that back two-bay garage. The project is already underway and Craig should have heat out there in a matter of weeks.
These are just a few examples of what is in store this year. Along with hopes of painting restoration, possibly expanding the barn, upgrading equipment, replantings, general upkeep and restoration ... we have a lot planned.
All of this happens with what equated to about 10,000 hours of volunteer work here each year. Our garden club did an amazing job in 2021 with the Harden Garden as it looked brilliant. They return for even more stunning results expected.
We also have a very special team of three who care for our pea-family every day. Jill, Theresa and Becky ... we can't thank you enough.
And finally, each of you who have given time and/or dollars to the park. We cannot be what we are without you. God bless you and we look forward to all that 2022 brings as we are truly blessed.
I prefer to sat Twenty-Twenty-WON! We are bound and determined to WIN this year. The last year has been hard on everyone and that includes the park. We stepped back about 4 years as fr as the financials go and that says a lot.
I arrived here on March 16th, 2016 and the date rings strong for me in many ways. March is a tumultuous month for weather and the park's financial condition reflected that state. I am not being coy when I say the park was certainly in jeopardy of closing at that time. We were staggering payments for oil and electricity to get through that winter. Much of the condition, if you recall, was fading and it wasn't because the park didn't want to, but couldn't. They had fought back and breathed life back into the museum with so much sweat equity of the "Friends of Harrybrooke" who were a group of dedicated volunteers. The money raised from that was truly collective of that group who all contributed personally. It was the foundation of what would begin when I arrived. Had it not been for those Friends, we likely would have closed the gates before I had even arrived.
Also the date of 3/16 reflects me to 3:16. John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." The piece that grabs me is "eternal life." I believe it's our job as a generation, to care for Harrybrooke Park. To preserve this park for the next generation and they for the following and so on.
While Frank Harden tried to prepare his former estate to live on as a park for all to enjoy, the financial times of 1965 and for 2021 are far different. Now we must have our events and fundraise in order to make the dream continue.
Now 2020 didn't beat us, but it beat us up, that's for sure. We intend to bounce back and allow a place for your children and grandchildren to learn to ride their bikes, for family picnics and for exploring the river trail and learning about nature.
I al so very proud of the work over the last (almost) five years here. We have collected about 10,000 hours/year, EACH year, in volunteer hours. We have created events that have made us all laugh and workouts to better ourselves. We have been inclusive of other nonprofits and helped them collectively.
Harrybrooke is again a part of the community as intended in Frank Harden's Will. If you grew up here, you likely have a story or two about Harrybrooke. It has changed and not changed. It is the same as when I was a kid and so much more now.
In the next 361 days, I hope you will come by for a walk, an event, and if you're lucky, even a wedding. We are fighting every single day to remain open for your enjoyment. For fresh air and exercise. For your children and grandchildren. For those struggling with life's concerns. we are here as a refuge from "real life." Most importantly, we are here for you because you have allowed that to happen with attending events or making donations.
Harrybrooke is the PEOPLE'S PARK and it remains so because of such an outstanding community of people. We are forever grateful and hope to show you that among the 48 acres here.
Happy New Year.
Some may know that Harden House Museum is listed with the Connecticut state register of historic places. Within you will find thousands of treasures, each screaming with a story of art, life and sincere interest and intrinsic value. While the majority of the art, furniture and collections of the museum are original to the Hardens themselves, on rare occasion we are thrilled to add a piece to the museum.
Today is one of those days and it comes with a lovely story.
First and foremost let us thank Mr. Joe Cats who donated this piece from his personal and private collection. Mr. Cats sits as President of New Milford Historical Society. His deep love and general curiosity of the town's history (both bold and quiet) makes him an asset to the historical preservation of this town. What's more is his love for sharing this history with you and me and frankly any person who shows the interest. I have had MANY lengthy conversations with Joe where we could each teach the other something and more so, Joe has taught me quite a bit more. Today he teaches us of the Wannopee Pottery Company which was here in New Milford in the early 1900's. Much of their pottery gained recognition as "lettuce leaf" pottery made famous by Mrs. Jackie Kennedy owning quite a few pieces while in her stay at the White House.
April 29th, 2020
First and foremost we hope that this finds you and your family safe. This is paramount in every decision made ... safety first.
Many people have called, emailed, facebooked (is that a word?) and stopped us in the park to inquire about our efforts. We appreciate the conversations. Completely! Communication is critical to any smooth operation. your questions have mostly surrounded our being open and the social distancing within the park so we thought we would share a few points to keep you as safe as we can.
Stay healthy, stay safe and God bless.
The blogs are written by our park Executive Director, Billy Buckbee. Some call him Mo but he's the guy with the beard you see around the park.