One man’s vision for Grumman Memorial Park

11/23/2013 12:00 PM |
Grumman retiree Ted Kole is hoping to build a visitors center at Grumman Memorial Park in the likeness of the old aircraft hangar. Pictured is the hangar that once stood in Bethpage.

COURTESY PHOTO | Grumman retiree Ted Kole is hoping to build a visitors center at Grumman Memorial Park in the likeness of the old aircraft hangar. Pictured is the hangar that once stood in Bethpage.

Many people who worked for Grumman Aerospace Corporation can tell you about their undying sense of pride in the company and the contributions its employees made to American aviation.

The Grumman Memorial Park at the former Grumman Aerospace Flight Test Facility property on Route 25 in Calverton is a symbol of that pride. It was created to commemorate advances in aviation and aerospace that took place on Long Island throughout the 20th century. The park opened in 2000 thanks to the volunteer efforts of a nonprofit group called East End Aircraft.

Now, 13 years later, Northrop Grumman retiree Ted Kole is working to build on the initial efforts of those volunteers. Mr. Kole, who retired last year, is hoping to raise roughly $300,000 to expand the park.

Under his preliminary plan, the Grumman Memorial Park would feature a playground, bathrooms and covered picnic area — similar to the amenities at Brookhaven Town’s Moriches Athletic Complex — and a visitor information center designed to resemble the old Grumman airplane hangar.

Ted Kole poses with the merchandise he designs and sells to commemorate the corporation.

COURTESY PHOTO | Ted Kole poses with the merchandise he designs and sells to commemorate the corporation.

Additionally, Mr. Kole hopes to use the existing track that circles the park to host annual 5K races in partnership with Riverhead Town and area businesses as fundraisers for upkeep of the park.

“This expansion would attract more tourist attention and encourage more use of the park by camps, schools and the community,” Mr. Kole said.

A former media services graphic designer at Northrop Grumman, Mr. Kole was granted a license agreement by the military in 2010 to sell T-shirts, cups, hats and other items bearing the old Grumman logo. The profi t has traditionally gone to fund the Grumman Retirees Club, but Mr. Kole now plans to have a portion of those sales go toward the construction of the park.

Without community support, however, his dream may never take flight.

He is now in the process of applying for grant funding for the project through the state offi ce of Parks, Recreation and Historic Restoration. If approved, the state would provide half the funding for the estimated $600,000 expansion. But to move forward, Mr. Kole must fi nd a nonprofi t organization to spearhead the project. He said he has been in talks with the Cradle of Aviation Museum of Garden City to help with fundraising effort, but they have not committed to the project. Just a few weeks ago, six volunteers from the museum, many of them Grumman retirees, donated their time to help restore the aging F-14 and A-6E fi ghter jets on display at Grumman Memorial Park in Calverton.

“I’m not sure the Cradle would be in a position to spearhead the effort,” said Andrew Parton, director of the museum. “Fundraising in general is a very diffi cult process and the museum has its own diffi culties in raising the funds needed to operate. We’d be happy to contribute time and some people resources as well as participating in discussions, but a major fundraising role would be hard for us to manage.”

Mr. Kole also needs approval from the Town of Riverhead for the project to move forward. He has been speaking with Riverhead deputy supervisor Jill Lewis, but like the museum, the town said that while it appreciates Mr. Kole’s effort, it couldn’t contribute funding for the project.

Supervisor Sean Walter echoed that sentiment this week.

“It sounds like a great idea if he got the grant money,” he said. “But the town isn’t in a position to match the money or contribute fi nancially.”

Mr. Kole is still optimistic that the community and fellow retirees will rally to help build the facilities.

“The Town of Riverhead does not have the funding to renovate the park and I do not have the ability to spearhead a project like this,” Mr. Kole said. “But I think community or business leaders might be interested in helping.”

For Mr. Kole, there is a more personal connection to the project than his own employment at the company. In the 1940s, his grandfather, Chester Kolodynski, helped build the Grumman plant in Bethpage.

“This is a great way to carry on the legacy of Grumman,” Mr. Kole said. “It wasn’t only my career; you ask anyone that has ever worked there and they will tell you it was great.”

cmurray@timesreview.com

COURTESY PHOTO | Changes Ted Kole hopes to implement at Grumman Memorial Park.

COURTESY PHOTO | Changes Ted Kole hopes to implement at Grumman Memorial Park.

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