From drab prison to lush park

Warwick. An irregularly shaped, unused and overgrown strip of land of about 10 acres will be opened up to make room for a sculpture garden, planted meadows, and more. The opening is set for this Saturday, April 29, which just happens to be Arbor Day.

| 24 Apr 2023 | 10:45

One of the true success stories for Warwick in this century is what happened — and is still happening — to the Mid-Orange Correctional Facility.

Closed in 2011, the 750-acre former prison, which looked and felt more like the campus of a private school than a prison, was transferred, after three long years of negotiations, from New York State to Warwick.

The site was divided into two areas — roughly 150 acres for eventual commercial development, priced at $3.7 million, and 600 acres with a large lake and some of the most beautiful land in Orange County - at a cost of only $1.

Now, 12 years on, the fruits of that acquisition are evident: multiple tax-paying businesses offering hundreds of good jobs and the lovely Wickham Woodlands Park.

The latest addition to the park area has just been announced: an irregularly shaped, unused and overgrown strip of land of about 10 acres, will be opened up to make room for “Transformation Trails:”

An arboretum with hundreds of native trees.

Planted meadows that will attract birds and pollinators.

A sculpture garden.

· pathways that wind through the area, some incorporating exercise stations

A possible small amphitheater for outdoor concerts and events.

The transformation from a vague idea on paper to something real that is coming to fruition is the result of a productive collaboration between town officials, Warwick community groups and local business owners. Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton, Warwick DPW, The Shade Tree Commission, Sustainable Warwick, Agrisculpture and the Fox Soccer Academy were all involved.

To kick it all off, an opening celebration will be held at the site that will feature a ceremonial planting of the first five trees and a full description of how the area will evolve that will tell the story of how things will look in 10, 20, and 50 years — the future of this great Warwick story. The opportunity for Warwick residents or businesses to “adopt” future trees will be announced.

The opening will be on Saturday, April 29 — Arbor Day — and those who would like to attend should go to Wickham Woodlands and then follow signs to the event.