October 21, 2021

Park spruce up begins

Volunteers, donations key to Dwyer Memorial project

Photos by Nick Graziano/contributing photographer

Most of the boards have been replaced on a wagon at Dwyer Memorial Park. Much of the old paint from the circus scene has been scraped in preparation to repaint the wagon.

A can’t miss sight upon entering Dwyer Memorial Park in Little York is the large colorful circus wagon that greets every visitor. Another calls greetings from farther in the park.

Many may recall their yellow and red scheme with a caged polar bear on one and a caged gorilla on the other. They look a little different now.

About 90 percent of the wagon with the gorilla has new wood paneling. Paint has been scraped off much of the other. New rubber roofs have been put on both, along with a fresh coat of primer paint.

It’s all part of Cortland County Legislator Linda Jones’ vision to preserve the wagons and bring new life to Dwyer Park.

That vision includes restoring and repainting the decaying circus wagons and restoring model horses and a merry-go-round at the park. At the moment, the main focus is on the circus wagons.

Jones expects the wagons to be painted this month by volunteers Ashley Pearson of Homer and Jennah Lenae Gallagher of Syracuse. The Homer High School advanced art class will also do some painting, too.

“The designs are really good,” Jones said. “Friendly.” Gallagher will paint a tiger with a baby tiger and Pearson will paint a bear with a cub.

Once the wagons are painted, the next project will be the park’s existing merry-go-round, Jones said.

“One thing at a time,” Jones said. Restoring the wagons has proven to be a lot of work.

Preble resident Jay Currie, left, paints primer on one of the circus wagons at Dwyer Memorial Park, while Homer resident Gary Lawrence, middle, and Homer Town Board Member Larry Jones, right, scrape off the old paint. Both wagons at the park are being restored and repainted.

Many people have volunteered to help along the way, and many businesses have donated materials and labor — saving thousands of dollars.

“I’ve really lucked out,” Jones said.

Preble resident Jay Currie, who has been helping work on the wagons from the beginning of the project, said he spent a lot of time at the park as a kid. He wants to help preserve it.

“I hate seeing things go away,” Currie said.

The park used to be filled with attractions — a swing, a small train for kids to ride, even animals — but over time they were removed and the equipment that remained was left to rot.

Little York resident Gary Lawrence, who has lived in the area his whole life, has also been donating time. He said it is important to him to keep the history of the park preserved.

Hours and days have been spend working on the wagons. Initially, Jones said she thought only 64 boards would need to be replaced on the wagons, but it ended up being 92. Kennedy Hardwood of Preble donated the lumber.

Goddard Roofing of Homer installed the rubber roofs for free. Jones said she’ll only have to pay for the material cost, which could be as much as $700 — one of her first big expenses, so far.

She began raising money for the project in March, collecting more than $1,200 in a week. Since then, her total raised equates to more than $3,000.

Small expenses, like screws, have added up, and the paint will cost another $700, although the primer was donated, she said.

Every penny spent has been through donations, or Jones’ own money, not tax dollars.

Any unspent funds will go toward other projects at the park, and Jones said she already has ideas, including painting the boat launch.

She also was given $250 to put toward benches for the park — a project she now plans to look into. One couple from California has also asked about donating a bench in honor of the couple’s parents, who always visited the park.

“Everybody loves the park,” Jones said. “It’s so busy all the time.”