Members of the Blue Ridge School Board and district administration offered their in-person thanks to State Sen. Lisa Baker and Rep. Jonathan Fritz for their support of a parks and recreation project at the Monday, Dec. 5 board meeting. The elected officials were both presented with certificates of appreciation from the board.
Blue Ridge received a $700,000 Keystone Communities Program grant through the Dept. of Community and Economic Development (DCED) for the purchase of nearly 14 acres of land bordering the school campus.
Sen. Baker said the Blue Ridge grant was “one of the largest grants” she has seen come into her district, as board members expressed their gratitude for the lawmakers’ support.
She congratulated the district on their successful application, noting she was first contacted about two years ago regarding the project by Superintendent Matthew Button.
Baker said the project highlights the importance of rural schools that serve as the “center of communities.”
“This will be such a positive thing for students now and in the future,” she said.
Rep. Fritz said that his involvement in sports changed his life. “Football is the reason I went to college,” he said, noting life lessons of grit and determination gained from participation in sports. “Kids are our greatest investment.”
He also praised Baker’s work. “Her rank and goodwill made this happen,” he said.
In the grant application submitted by the district, the expanded campus footprint would allow the district to develop more community-centered opportunities for residents.
Following the land acquisition, the project is broken down into five phases, beginning with the construction of a softball field that will serve community youth programs, as well as the district’s athletic programs.
Currently, the school’s softball team utilizes the field located along State Route 11 in Hallstead.
Phase two will be the construction of a soccer field that – like the softball field project – will serve both school and community programs.
In phase three, the Blue Ridge maintenance facility will be relocated to better service the new grounds and campus. The fourth phase will be the development of a half-mile walking trail – with potential for future expansion to increase the trail length up to one mile.
The final phase of the project includes the installation of a new playground for children.