OTISVILLE—If you think you’ve seen the new Education Center & 4-H Park in Otisville while passing by the development on Finchville Turnpike, think again. The road view is just a scratch on the heavily bulldozed surface of the massive, multipurpose children’s educational center that opened last week.
The real action is found by following the road behind the wall of trees. Car loads of families streamed in on Saturday, July 25, for the Family Fun Day and showcase. Everybody was curious to see the complex and what it offered.
There are three large covered arenas, and a large barn-like building so far, but plans for a camp with cabins, gardens and a greenhouse, other larger arenas, and much more are all in the works, although somewhat dependent on hoped for donations and federal and Orange County funding.
Local contractors working on the site, Vaughan Construction and F & A Concrete, both ended up making substantial donations to the project, which just goes to show how much value the local community places on the positive impact of 4-H on children’s upbringing.
Hands down, the absolute favorite spot for all the children on Saturday was in the bunny tent. One of the 4-H clubs is the Hare Raisers club, and children had brought in their prized rabbits, and rabbit kittens, to show off. The children are encouraged to breed, raise, and compete with their rabbits.
The tent was full of baby bunnies and smitten children begging their moms and dads to sign them up. It was cuteness overload.
Some kids entered their rabbits in the bunny hop race. Most rabbits did not really jump over the hurdles like show ponies do, but it was fun trying. Onlooking children continued to fall in love, wishing with all their sweet hearts to have their own baby bunny and join the club.
Worried about the decline in interest in agriculture among today’s youth, Christine Cesarz, one of the mothers involved in Hare Raisers, said a 4-H showcase like this is very useful: “It promotes agriculture and animal science. Some parents think it’s very important and are dedicated to teaching their children.”
Eleven-year-old Brendan Weiss, known among the Hare Raisers as a rabbit aficionado, has dedicated much effort into breeding and raising various kinds of rabbits, 21 in total. He had them all there, and let children hold the babies.
Over in the far arena were some local cows and calves, being affectionately groomed by 12-year-old Natalie Dolson, who’s been involved in 4-H for 5 years. Her favorite animals are cows, because “they’re so big.”
“I just like the experience of taking care of cows and other animals,” she said.
The Port Jervis farm Indian Acres is very supportive of children’s involvement in animal rearing and brought the cows and calves to the event.
Lucy Joyce, executive director of the Otisville project, described her vision for the new center: “I see this place as offering cultural and natural resources, and life-skills to the children of the community…even serving the whole region of Orange County.”
Many of the 4-H clubs make a very well-rounded addition to a home-schooling curriculum. Joyce also has her sights set on working with local schools in Minisink valley, offering programs in agriculture and vegetable gardening as supplementary education resources. In the future, she would like to expand these offering to schools in other areas.
To make the center financially viable Joyce said they intend for it to be multi-purpose. She projects being able to bring in revenue through holding events such as antique and car shows, large functions, and horse and animal shows, for example.
With the Metro-North train station in Otisville, and proximity to New York City, she hopes there will be opportunities to entice a wider crowd of people to visit the center and make use of it