Since the fall, Rocketship Park, between Mill Creek Road and Barnum Avenue, became closed while thousands of dollars were raised from private donations, fund-raisers, grants and taxpayer dollars pour into a massive renovation project. The kids in Port Jefferson area felt like they were getting a birthday present in June, as an iconic village park was finally ready for a new launch. The new playground equipment now includes a tree house, pirate ship, and rocket ship. At least 200 kids lined the fences June 15, eager for the official ribbon cutting during which the children could try it out firsthand.
Clifton H. Lee Memorial Park, which is a bit known as Rocketship Park, has been rejuvenated thanks in part to the Port Jefferson “Treasure Your Parks” campaign, which has mandated a three and a half-year renovation. Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket); Jennifer Martin, a representative from Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright’s (D-Port Jefferson Station) office;
Members of the Port Jefferson Village board and Mayor Margot Garant joined the runner-up 2016 New York state champion basketball team, and local children, to cut the ribbon during the grand opening and officially open the park for the summer.
Port Jefferson’s second mayor served three terms in the 1960s and 1970s, including three as mayor of Port Jefferson. The 4,000 square foot playground is 750 feet from the Port Jefferson Harbor. Due to the rock climbing structure in the park, many village residents called it "Rocketship Park" once it had opened in the mid-1970s.
A few Port Jeff kids, Cooper and McKenna Negus, were also recognized for their contribution to the park's fundraising efforts, by collecting change in a jar and periodically going to the village hall. Using the money, the young mayor plans to purchase a tile with the name of the donors to commemorate their generous work.
“Everyday we were building this park we’d have kids hanging out on the outside of the fence saying ‘when can we come and play,’” Garant said. “It’s all about the kids right?”
A video surveillance system will be installed in the park, added Garant, and he asked that all visitors help to make sure that it remains safe, clean, and devoid of graffiti, vandalism, and litter.
The total project cost was about $900,000. According to Barbara Sakovich, assistant to the mayor, more than half came from taxpayer dollars, while about 265,000 came from a state grant, and about one third came from donations.