Representatives from the Arto Monaco Historical Society are gauging the town of Jay’s interest in taking ownership of a park the organization hopes to construct in the area.
Councilmembers at the Town Board meeting Aug. 11 expressed their interest in the project, but said they wanted a better idea of what it would cost the town in upkeep before they committed themselves.
“It’s obvious something like this is going to take several man hours to take care of and keep it looking nice,” Councilman Gerald Hall said. “Can the town afford this kind of money to put out? The parks we have right now, some of them could use a little more attention than what they’re getting.
Historical Society representative Anne MacKinnon said she believed if the town was uninterested in ownership of the park, the site would likely be cleared before being put on the market.
Arto Monaco (1913-2005) designed Santa’s Workshop in Wilmington before launching the Land of Makebelieve theme park in Upper Jay. The Land of Makebelieve closed in 1979.
“It’s a very dear place to a lot of people,” MacKinnon said.
The concept plan for the proposed, 3.5-acre park is an interpretation of the Land of Makebelieve. It will include a walking loop, informational boards detailing Monaco’s story, a statue of Monaco, a castle-like building, and a seasonal tent.
“We want it to really honor Arto’s memory and also express the dreams of people about what the Land of Makebelieve was and what a really attractive park in Upper Jay could look like,” MacKinnon said.
In the winter, Historical Society representative Steven Engelhart said, the park’s pathways could be flooded to create outdoor skating paths.
“This would be the only place in the region where such a thing exists,” Engelhart said. “They’re becoming very popular in Europe and Canada. You can imagine it lit up at night and people converging on Upper Jay to go skating.”
MacKinnon said the Historical Society did not believe having a non-profit group run the park would be financially feasible.
“We decided it really couldn’t pay for itself, because we’d end up with payroll,” MacKinnon said. “Our best intelligence is that institutions like that around here are really struggling.”
Town Supervisor Randall Douglas said he supported the project “in theory,” but he wanted to see estimates of operation and maintenance costs to the town.
“Right now government is trying to do more with less,” Douglas said.
Councilman Arthur Depo said he approved of the idea, but was worried about the finances.
“The problem I have with it is strictly budget,” Depo said, adding that Chris Garrow’s highway and public works department was stretched thin as it was. “I think we need to involve him (Garrow) in any decision.”