On a typical summer day, Greis Veterans Memorial Park in Lynbrook is bustling with activity. Families splash around in the park’s three pools, run under the flower-shaped sprinklers and frolic on the playgrounds while athletes of all ages take advantage of the various courts, fields and fitness trail on the 15-acre grounds.
“Whether you have a 13-year-old or a 3-year-old, there’s something to do here,” said Lynbrook resident Jennifer Fucci, whose two daughters split Monday afternoon between swim lessons at the pool and an art class inside the rec center.
Lynbrook residents have long known of the park’s many amenities, but this summer they’re determined to let the rest of the country know just how great Greis Park is. For the past five weeks, they have cast more than 158,000 votes for Greis Park to win the title of “America’s Favorite Park” in a contest sponsored by the Coca-Cola Company.
Since the contest kicked off on June 6, more than 1.2 million votes have been cast for parks throughout the country. As of Tuesday morning, Veterans Memorial Park in tornado-ravaged Moore, Okla., is in first place with more than 300,000 votes and Mason Neck State Park in Lorton, Va., is second with nearly 294,000 votes. The park that garners the most votes by the time the competition ends at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on July 15 will win a $100,000 grant that can be used to repair, rebuild and enhance the park.
Greis Park moved to third place after overtaking Thompson Park in East Liverpool, Ohio, sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning. A third-place finish would win a $25,000 grant. The prize for second place is a $50,000 grant, and another $15,000 grant will be awarded to one of the remaining top 25 parks through a random drawing.
“It’s crazy the way this thing has taken off,” said Pat Ciampi, a 44-year Lynbrook resident who works in the village’s Recreation Department.
Ciampi said a member of the Lynbrook Little League brought the contest to the attention of the department’s recreation supervisor, Andrea Campbell, in early June. Since then, Campbell has been using Facebook to encourage the community to vote everyday for the park on coke.com/parks.
Although the contest rules specify that registered users can cast only one vote per day through the website, Foursquare users can earn five votes for their favorite park each day by checking in using the mobile app. Logging at least 20 minutes of exercise inside the park using the app MapMyFitness will unlock an additional 10 votes per day.
Ciampi said park officials are hoping residents will exercise all the voting options, and to encourage them to do so, they are holding a community walk on Thursday inside the park. They’re also letting residents know about the two Double Voting Days coming up on Saturday and Sunday, the last weekend before the contest ends, when all votes cast will be counted twice.
“I’m positive we’re going to get third place,” Ciampi, 63, said Monday. “We’re that close. We really have a great shot.”
Win or lose, Ciampi said she likes how the contest is bringing the community closer together. Everyone from kids to teens to adults are getting involved, and offering suggestions about how the grant money should be spent if they do win.
Some of the suggestions have been for basic items such as more chairs at the pool or a new floor in the park’s rec center, which hosts a variety of art, exercise and educational programs for kids and adults. Others are dreaming bigger.
Lynbrook native Matt Ruderman, 22, who spent Monday afternoon playing baseball with two of his former high school buddies, envisioned a tennis court or turf field. Brothers J.P. Costello, 13, and John Costello, 10, both members of the Lynbrook swim team, are pulling for a dive tank. The most unusual request so far, Ciampi said, was for an “underwater” music system.
When asked why Greis Park was deserving of the title of “America’s Best Park,” CIampi said, “We have so much going for a small park. We’ve just gotten bigger and bigger even though the park hasn’t gotten any bigger.”