For years, the lot along New Freedom's Main Street sat empty.

The space was likely to be transformed into a strip mall until residents pushed the borough to buy it and turn it into a park.

Now, Freedom Green community park offers a brick patio, walkways, benches and a bike rack at the town center.

Organizers hope to complete the third phase of improvements — primarily, building a $20,000 gazebo — in time for the 10th annual New Freedom Fest on Sept. 20.

New Freedom Heritage, the nonprofit behind the park's development, organizes the daylong celebration, which features a pet parade, arts and crafts, and a pie-eating contest. Group members hope the gazebo will be done so they can use it as a stage for live music.

"It's a fun time to come and enjoy the local businesses in town and also see your friends and have a good time," said Diane Folger, chairwoman of the New Freedom Fest.

The final step to completing the park will be adding more walkways and landscaping. Cathie Itzoe, a member of New Freedom Heritage, said the fourth phase is slated for next year if fundraising goes as hoped.

The background: New Freedom Heritage has been devoted to the park since forming in 2004. The group began making physical changes to the property in spring 2013. The first year, members focused on leveling the property and removing weeds. They completed the second phase of improvements in June.


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"The idea was always there from 2004," Folger said. "It just took a while because we had to earn money, get donations and things like that to develop it."

"It's really starting to look like a park," said Sue Myers, Freedom Green project manager.

The group has raised funds by selling bricks engraved with personal messages, which are then built into the walkways, and by encouraging local donations. Boy Scouts have built park amenities as their Eagle projects.

"The whole community has been very supportive," Itzoe said. "We hope it will be seen as a focal point of New Freedom, because it's right on Main Street."

Those interested in having a brick engraved can donate on the New Freedom Heritage website, www.newfreedomheritago.org, or call the nonprofit at (717) 578-1026.

— Reach Michael Tabb at mtabb@yorkdispatch.com.