A History Of The Greene Lions Club Park
Published: April 11th, 2024

A history of the Greene Lions Club Park On July 22, 1990, the grand opening of the Greene Lions Club Com- munity Park was held. Since that grand opening 33 years ago the park has continued to evolve into the park in use today. (Submitted photo)

By Joe Roth

Greene Lions Club

GREENE – In the early 1980’s the Greene Lions Club received a very inspired speech from a local man by the name of Clifford “Horsey” Thomas.

Horsey had identified a problem in the local community, and felt that an appeal to the Lions Club might result in a solution. The problem that Horsey outlined that night was the lack of sports fields for the youth programs in the area.

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At the time the youth programs relied heavily on the facilities provided by the school, and unfortunately there were more teams during any given season than the fields could accommodate. Horsey himself was an avid sports enthusiast with baseball being his background, and with the sports programs in the area thriving he felt that additional fields would continue to encourage kids to participate. Successfully making his case, his speech inspired the members of the club to rise to the challenge of solving this problem, and today there even exists a Little League field fondly named after “Horsey” at a 40-acre park in Greene, NY. What follows is a short history of how that park came to be.

One of the witnesses to Clifford Thomas’ speech was a Greene Lions Club member by the name of Don Barry. As a graduate of Clarkson University, Don had a background in Engineering. He was also no stranger to hard work, having been born on a nearby dairy farm and having served as a member of the armed forces. Receiving the support of his 52 fellow club members, Don stepped forward and offered to take the lead on a project to construct a new community park, and with him at the helm the collective dream began to quickly take shape.

The Greene Lions Club drew up a set of plans for the proposed park that could be used to share the idea with others. This original set of plans addressed Horsey’s call to action – a Little League Field and a soccer field for the area’s youth. But why stop there? The Club wanted to dream bigger. So in addition to these two fields the original plans grew to include a pavilion that could be used by community members as well as a running track as the local school district did not have one at that time.

The next task that lay before The Club was to identify a piece of nearby property that would provide a suitable home for the park. In 1985 this land was found in the form of a 40-acre parcel that belonged to, believe it or not, Alfred University. Alfred had received the land as a donation from George Raymond Jr., who had previously purchased it from the Catholic Church. Mr. Raymond held a position on the Alfred University Board of Trustees, and with the talks of a satellite Alfred campus not materializing the Greene Lions Club was presented with the perfect opportunity to purchase the property. The Club itself did not have the $35,000 that was necessary to make the purchase, but once again the members rose to the occasion, providing the funds to The Club in the form of a loan, with over 20 members signing guarantees ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 each.

After the property was successfully purchased, and while still serving as the project lead, Don Barry went on a fundraising and community interest tour. He emphasized how important it was to conduct the construction on a "pay as you go plan," so as to keep the costs manageable. "We wanted this park to be a total positive contribution to the community," said Don. Local groups and individuals from Greene and surrounding communities such as Coventry, Brisben and Smithville contributed time and money to the project, while organizations such as the Army Reserves brought in equipment to do site work and landscaping, in many cases conducting the work on weekends. Camp Pharsalia sent a crew to pick stones, lasting only one day at the task. They quickly figured out that they would rather do carpentry work than pick stones. With Don leading the way the Greene Lions Club performed a tremendous amount of the work themselves, from surveying to water and sewer installations to constructing picnic tables. Don made sure to continue to keep the local organizations appraised of how the work was progressing and how much the Lions Club appreciated their support, returning to meet with their groups year after year. "He really was the right man to be the head honcho," said John Bennett.

After five years of diligent work, the resulting park absolutely exceeded the expectations of the Greene Community. It featured two Little League fields, copious amounts of green space that could be used for soccer and a 50' wide by 125' long pavilion with a kitchen, electrical service and running water.

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Bathrooms were constructed, and a 400 meter running track was installed. A large parking lot was constructed to accommodate the frequent, and sometimes large community events and gatherings, with scenic driveways connecting to the main thoroughfare in Greene. On July 22, 1990, the grand opening of the park was held with Lions Club members and local dignitaries taking part in the ceremony. The Greene Lions Club Community Park was born, and local youth sports teams finally had their home.

Since that grand opening 33 years ago the park has continued to evolve. In the late 1990’s the Greene Central School district built a track at the stadium behind the high school as a part of a capital project, allowing the track at the park to be decommissioned and reclaimed by grass, with the local Joint Recreation Commission now using that space for a soccer field in the fall. Using grants provided by the Raymond Foundation additional baseball and softball fields have been constructed at the park, providing ample space for local youth and adult teams to enjoy games and practices. The most recent addition to the park is a bicycle racing course, constructed by a local cycling club with the Greene Lions club providing the space.

In 2009, another, smaller pavilion was added in the southwest corner of the property, and John Bennett had an interesting anecdote to share regarding how the pavilion came to fruition. As estimates were being obtained for the construction of the pavilion donations were pouring into the Club in the name of recently deceased Lion Lou Barton. Phil Martin reviewed these bids and found that the lowest was a reasonable $6,850. The question became, had the club received enough donations yet to pursue the construction? When Phil and other Club members that were working on the project approached Mike Paino, the Club Treasurer at the time to see how much was in the Pavilion Fundraising account, he replied that the exact amount was $6,850. It was a sign – get the pavilion built! And so the Club members did.

As previously noted, the aforementioned southwest pavilion was constructed to honor the many years of service of former Lion Lou Barton. Several other features of the park, and even the park itself have presented perfect opportunities to continue to honor past and present Greene Lions Club members. In 2014 Little League Field 1 was aptly named in honor of Clifford “Horsey” Thomas, closing the loop on the inspiration that he provided to undertake the construction of the park. And in 2019 a dedication ceremony was held to honor the driving force behind the park’s construction, Don Barry. At the ceremony the park was formally renamed to “The Greene Lions Club Don Barry Memorial Park.” Many of Don’s family were in attendance as the new sign was unveiled at the park’s main entrance. In 2023 Little League Field number 2 was named “Carlin Field” to recognize the hard work and dedication of current Club member John Carlin, as John’s yearly fundraising efforts play a large part in making the Greene Little League Program possible.

While this article has provided an opportunity to reflect on the tremendous amount of hard work and history behind the park, the Greene Lions Club continues to be forward looking and remains dedicated to maintaining this wonderful asset for the Greene Community. Year after year the park, its pavilions and athletic fields continue to play host to many graduation parties, wedding receptions, family reunions and games of baseball, softball and soccer. Just like any facility, without regular care the park would quickly fall into disrepair, so the maintenance and upkeep of the park continues to be conducted by the many members of the Greene Lions Club. Whether it be mowing the acres of grass, dragging the Little League fields or even carrying out a plumbing repair, it is through this dedication that the park will continue to be the positive contribution to the Greene Community that Don Barry and his fellow Lions Club members envisioned nearly forty years ago.

I would like to thank Peg Ross for authoring her original piece in the August 20, 2015 issue of the Chenango American that provided much of the base information for this article, as well as my fellow members of the Greene Lions Club who provided their stories and anecdotes.