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Cabin restoration will be a volunteer effort in Brightwaters

Brightwaters Mayor John Valdini, left, and John Catania,

Brightwaters Mayor John Valdini, left, and John Catania, the village highway foreman, discuss renovation plans inside the Wohseepee Park cabin. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

It takes a village — to renovate the nearly century-old dilapidated cabin at Wohseepee Park, Brightwaters Mayor John Valdini said.

Valdini has launched an all-volunteer effort to spruce up the 1,400-square-foot cabin built in 1926 on North Windsor Avenue. The village-owned building was originally used by the Boy Scouts and is in continuous use for activities such as little league meetings, private parties and as a polling place for state and national elections, Valdini said.

But the dated interior has cracking vinyl floors that are also warped, a leaning chimney, lacks lighting and needs fresh coats of paint, Valdini said.

“People just want to help and get dirty, and we’re going to get them dirty,” he said. “It was really the time to give the cabin an upgrade. It’s going to be an all-voluntary effort. We’ve already gotten 70 people in the village who have donated money toward the project. I’ve been contacted by almost two dozen contractors and subcontractors willing to do a piece of it."

As of earlier this month, about $12,000 had been raised for the restoration, and pledges of about $15,000 in additional material and labor have been made, Valdini said. Contractors and community groups have agreed to lend services and materials including demolition work, a front door and outside deck.

But Valdini knows that’s only a start to successfully complete the necessary changes he estimates will cost between $80,000 and $100,000. He has no plans to dip into village coffers to finance upgrades such as adding windows, replacing a boiler room with an outside bathroom and fixing a handicap ramp.

"We are going to strip everything down to the studs,” Valdini said. “The walls are tipping over. The chimney is moving. Every day we get more cracks.”

Valdini is owner of Dukes Development Corporation in Brightwaters, which does dry wall and carpentry. He has an ambitious plan to start the demolition in late March and finish the upgrades by Memorial Day weekend.

John Catania, who is the village highway foreman and oversees town buildings and parks, might stop by while volunteers are working, Valdini said. But he is the only village employee with any official role in the project.

“Village employees will not be part of any work that is being done, unless they want to volunteer on Saturdays,” Valdini said. 

Brooke Pitta, who is chairwoman of the Brightwaters Parks Committee, said she grew up using the cabin. Her mother organized a baby shower for her there, and her 7-year-old daughter uses the cabin as part of a camp group.

“I see families stepping up to volunteer,” Pitta said. “There are a lot of skillful people in the village and a lot of young families who want to see it done.”

Anyone who donates time, materials or money — no matter how much — will have their names engraved in a commemorative plaque, Valdini said.

“We're going to let them know it was a community effort," he said.

Planned changes to the building's interior and exterior:

  • Gutting two inside bathrooms
  • Replacing the fireplace
  • Building an outside seating deck 
  • Improving the park’s landscaping

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