By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
Surrounded by a gathering of two dozen Hubbard family and friends, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi, Councilman Barry Lee Cohen and Hubbard Family Association President Steven Johnstone welcomed volunteers, neighbors, sponsors, and state and city officials at a ribbon-cutting Sept. 29 to celebrate the reopening of Hubbard Farms Park.
The West Shore park, formerly the Hubbard Nature and Education Center, was recently renamed Hubbard Farms Park to best represent the area’s rich history, which dates to the 1700s. The new name was unanimously supported by the Parks and Recreation Commission and approved by the City Council.
The new name also complements West Haven’s centennial in 2021, said Cohen, R-10, who has worked closely with Johnstone to transform the long-dormant park.
Johnstone is the owner of Hubbard Farm’s Wood and Snow LLC, the park’s lead sponsor. The co-sponsor is Jose Amaya, a licensed arborist and the owner of Above the Ground Tree Care LLC. Both West Haven companies will continue to support the park’s upkeep with the city, Cohen said.
All work to date was completed under Johnstone’s direction in partnership with Public Works Commissioner Tom J. McCarthy.
“The efforts of Steven Johnstone, the Hubbard family, Councilman Cohen, and the collection of volunteers and sponsors have exemplified the true power of a strong community,” Rossi said. “My recent walking tour of the park allowed me to see the great progress that was made by this group of volunteers. Thank you to everyone involved who made this renovated natural resource available to all Westies.”
Joining Rossi, Cohen and Johnstone at the late-afternoon ceremony were state Reps. Charles J. Ferraro, R-West Haven, and Dorinda Borer, D-West Haven; city Treasurer Michael P. Last; City Council Chairman Ronald M. Quagliani, D-at large; council members Robbin Watt Hamilton, D-5, Robert Bruneau, D-9, Gary Donovan, D-at large, and Colleen O’Connor, R-at large; city sidewalk inspector Ernie Chiarelli; city Tree Warden Leo Kelly; and McCarthy.
The revitalization of the Hubbard Road park, nestled between Jones Hill and Benham Hill roads, far exceeded the sponsors’ original commitment to the wooded park, said Cohen, who pointed out that more than 80% of its 7.6-acre trails were restored.
All labor and materials to reestablish the trails, clear brush and debris, add new and refurbish existing fencing, and beautify the main entrance were provided by sponsors at no cost to the city, Cohen said.
In addition to the sponsors’ direct support, more than $11,000 of in-kind and monetary contributions were made by over a dozen businesses, he said.
Cohen extended a special acknowledgement for the generous donations of the following companies: Joe Iannone, the owner of Reliable Fence CT of West Haven, which provided 70 feet of cedar fencing and installation; Gio Barbano, a co-owner of Barbano Brothers Land Design of Milford, which provided landscaping to reestablish or create new trails; Jim O’Donoghue, the owner of JOD Designs of Milford, which provided the park sign, design and installation; Patrick Roka, the manager of Sherwin-Williams Paint Store of Orange, which provided the park bridge stain and paint supplies; and Philip and Justin Grande, the owners of Soundview Landscape Supply of West Haven, which provided 10-plus yards of mulch, ground maintenance supplies and debris removal.
“The park’s transformation has stimulated a sense of community and pride while showcasing the benefits that can be achieved through a public-private partnership,” Cohen said. “The reopening has also reignited many Westies’ fondest memories, such as skating on the pond, hitting the hiking trails and countless childhood adventures.
“It is my heartfelt belief that the continued commitment by the sponsors and city, in combination with local business engagement and neighborhood outreach, will create new memories for many generations to follow.”
Johnstone noted the restoration was also made possible by three dozen volunteers who contributed more than 350 hours to the park’s rehabilitation.
“With the driving force of a core team of volunteers and generous donors, the revitalization has exceeded all expectations for the Hubbard family and many throughout the area,” Johnstone said. “It was quite inspiring to see the community come together during these difficult times and do something positive.”
The 34-year-old Johnstone continued: “People told me from the very beginning that I was crazy and it couldn’t be done. Well, they got one thing right. I was a man on a mission to make my grandparents and great-grandparents proud.”
Johnstone, tearing up, told the crowd that when he was young, his grandfather often took him to the park property, then part of the Hubbard family homestead, but that he “hated it.”
That sentiment has become a distant memory for Johnstone, however, as his appreciation for the park has deepened with each passing year. Now more than ever, he said he treasures the precious times exploring the park with his grandfather, especially since Johnstone and his wife are expecting their first child and looking forward to sharing similar experiences there with their own family.