It had been a local family tradition for years.
Take the kids to Peppermint Park in Medford, and, if they were good (weren’t they always?) hit up the Carvel on Route 112.
But for a long time beginning in the 1990s, locals say, people started to avoid the park at Route 112 and Jamaica Avenue. (See map below.)
“It just started to go down hill,” said Regina Manion of Farmingville, who was found Monday at the newly renovated park, keeping an eye on her 2-year-old granddaughter, Leah Black of Bayport, as the little girl ran, hopped, swung and slid on the park’s shiny new playground equipment.
The park’s $350,000 renovation that began over the summer and wrapped up last month included the installation of new fencing, a new parking lot, sod, playground equipment, benches and picnic tables under a white pergola, said Brookhaven Town Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point).
To mark the milestone, Foley hosted grand re-opening party in the park on Halloween morning.
“Peppermint Park is a home run of home runs,” Foley later said in an interview. “The feedback from the community has been amazing. Parents said that for years they no longer felt comfortable going to the park. It was dirty. It was broken down. They’re so thankful they can now come back to Peppermint Park and relive some of the memories they had growing up.”
“I used to come here with my kids,” recalled Manion, of Farmingville. “Now they’re 37 and 39. It was a cute park, but this is even better. This is fantastic. And I like that it’s set back off the roadway. God forbid there was an accident, it’s nice there’s this buffer here.”
She also swapped stories Monday with other visitors who had fond memories of Peppermint.
Foley said it was a park within the council district that he identified as needing work when he was first began running for the Town Board last year. Then, after taking office, he huddled with the parks commissioner to begin the planning and budgeting process.
“It’s one of those things that look nice on paper but then when you see it built, it surpasses all expectations,” Foley said.
The town is currently examining the possibilities for a Phase II at Peppermint Park, where there is still space on the east side to build a recreational facility such as a basketball court. But, Foley said, there have been concerns raised from those who use the park about upsetting its child and family friendly dynamic.
“You don’t want it to become a place where you’ll find cigarettes and broken bottles,” Foley said.
There’s some history to the property, too.
In Peppermint Park’s northwest corner, visitors will find a plaque-bearing boulder indicating Route 112 and Jamaica Avenue as the spot of one of Medford’s first schoolhouses.
Below is page 8 of Medford’s Bicentennial Celebration pamphlet, which was published in 1976 and compiled by the Medford Bicentennial Committee. It shows a photo of that schoolhouse.