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Roy Wilkins Park activists celebrate summer with festival

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The Friends of Roy Wilkins Park teamed up with state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) Saturday to present a day for the community to come together in order to appreciate and take advantage of the partnerships that make the park and its services available.

Friends President Yvonne Richardson said the nonprofit has been working with the city Parks Department, the Southern Queens Parks Association and a number of elected officials since 2004 to take ownership of the park and help to fill in the gaps where efforts to maintain its 54 acres fell short.

“Our feeling is we are all a part of this community. We should help to try to keep this park,” she said.

The park hosted two concurrent events Saturday. Huntley funded her fifth-annual Family & Friends Day, and the Friends of Roy Wilkins Park ´╗┐presented its third-annual Community Family Day.

Groups such as the city Department for the Aging, Cub Scouts Troop No. 263 and The Floating Hospital lined up tents and set up tables under the shade provided by the park’s trees to host a variety of services for the diverse members of the community who gathered to enjoy their park.

“Seeing the community engage like this — it’s just wonderful,” said Larry Scott Blackmon, Parks deputy commissioner for community outreach. “There’s active recreation, passive recreation and even an educational component. And it’s inter-generational. I really applaud and appreciate their effort.”

Richardson said the majority of the Friends’ volunteers are retirees, and through their fund-raising and organizing efforts they have been able to supply the park with picnic tables and garbage cans in addition to maintaining the lawn and the lavish flower boxes adorning the gates to the park.

Park-goers beat the heat with flavored ices and water rides and enjoyed live performances by local artists.

Barbara Campbell-Jones set up to sell dolls she made with crocheted dresses that ´╗┐´╗┐covered everything from air fresheners to toilet tissues to Bible cases.

“I made them at home, where I came up with the ideas. This is the first time I’m coming out,” she said. “I really enjoy the atmosphere, the environment, the weather and the people. Everyone is very congenial, even after all that rain right before.”

Richardson said that when her group first got involved, the park’s lawns had grown wild, and with the help of Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) and City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), the friends were able to procure two commercial tractors.

“These things aren’t cheap,” she said, adding that the Friends hope to get more picnic tables and trash cans in the next year, along with a sprinkler system and a bike path. “They’re very good for seniors.”

On Aug. 27, the Friends will present the first Inter-Tribal Native American Indian Festival/Pow Wow at Baisley Pond Park at Lakeview Lane and 155th Street. Proceeds will benefit Roy Wilkins Park and the Long Island Native American Task Force Inc.

For more information, contact Yvonne Richardson at 718-527-5085.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 11:32 am, October 12, 2011
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