FORT PLAIN — Unity Park, the green space behind the former Universalist Church on Mohawk Street — now Unity Hall — has finally opened to the public. Though the park remains a work in progress, the welcoming space is now ready for the community to enjoy.
The road to transforming an empty dirt lot into an inviting community space was a long one, marked with many volunteer hours. Once the dilapidated home at 41 Mohawk St. was removed in 2013, Mohawk Valley Collective, Inc., began scheduling volunteer days at the lot, where salvaged materials from the home and Unity Hall, including reclaimed wood and limestone, were stored.
Over the course of seven years, community members cleared the lot of stones, landscaped it, planted grass between the road and sidewalk, installed a light post, flowers and handmade benches. The park finally became a tranquil, green space in August 2020.
“It’s been a long process,” said Mohawk Valley Collective board member Tolga Morawski, who noted the slate of individuals and volunteers who’ve helped bring the park to life. “I think it’s proof that through dedication, we can accomplish a lot.”
Instrumental in making the park a welcoming community space were Emily Brockenbrough and MVC board member Jo Clayson. Brockenbrough, an architecture student, was instrumental in designing Unity Park. Clayson, experienced in landscaping, helped to bring Brockenbrough’s designs to physical life.
“They’re very complementary,” said Morawski of Brockenbrough and Clayson, their collaboration having proved fruitful.
Clayson became involved with the park’s creation following the removal of the residence at 41 Mohawk St., as MVC was preparing to install concrete pavers where there now exists raised flower beds. Clayson basically took on the role of a coordinator, making sure that appropriate tools and materials were available during the many volunteer days held in the future park.
Along with the four raised flower beds — the edges of which utilized reclaimed wood from the home formerly where Unity Park now exists — four benches have been built for the green space, with enough lumber being left for the construction of one more.
“We wanted to have a place in the community that’s an informal place people can come,” to study, play with kids, talk with friends, watch films and concerts, and generally just enjoy themselves, Clayson said. At some point, she noted, Unity Hall’s events could even spill over into Unity Park.
Once the stage/pavilion area has been created, there’s potential to show films on a screen there, or for performers to play concerts. In the future, individuals also will be able to rent the park to host a variety of events, including (but not limited to) birthday parties, wedding receptions, family reunions, non-profit events and company picnics.
“We want to have multiple functions there,” Clayson said, stating that the design of the space “is flexible enough that we can accommodate many different kinds of activities.”
Earlier this year there was a plan in place to rent out spaces in Unity Park to vendors during local garage sales, which were canceled because of COVID-19.
“It’s been fun to play around with the park, and do something for the community as well,” said Clayson, stating that the Unity Park project has been both personally and outwardly rewarding.
The Mohawk Valley Collective will host its next volunteer work days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday Sept. 11, 12 and 13. All are welcome to participate on Friday from 1 to 7 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Volunteers are invited to provide whatever time they have available, whether it’s just an hour of time during all three days. A variety of jobs will be available, with tasks being matched to each volunteer’s ability, interests and skill level.