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Lancaster town takes preliminary action on Keysa Park improvements in memory of James Metz

Keysa Park’s rundown basketball courts and deteriorated tennis courts inched a step closer Monday to getting a facelift.

The Lancaster town and planning boards have recommended that town leaders sign off on an environmental review determining there would not be any negative environmental impact from refurbishing basketball courts at the town-owned park in the village and transform the unused tennis courts into a roller hockey rink in memory of James Metz, the 14-year-old Lancaster boy killed last fall in a plane collision at Buffalo-Lancaster Regional Airport.

So far, the Metz family and James’ younger brother, Donovan, who just turned 13, have raised $73,000 toward the effort that is estimated to cost a maximum of $165,000 for the improvements.

“We’re all very driven people and Donovan is our motivator,” said Town Clerk Johanna M. Coleman, who is an aunt to James and Donovan.

The improvements planned through the James Metz Memorial Fund are seen as the perfect complement to the newly opened Bryce Buchholz Memorial Skate & Bike Park that opened within Keysa Park. It was built in memory of Bryce, who was 14 when he was killed by a drunken driver in 2012 while riding home on his BMX bicycle.

James Metz had a love for basketball and often played with his friends and brother in his neighborhood and shot hoops outside his home off Lakeside Crescent. So his brother, Donovan, thought it would be a fitting tribute and addition to the community to refurbish the park’s basketball courts in his brother’s memory.

In an interview Monday night, Steve Metz said the family’s focus on the project is helping them in their grief. “We’re living everybody’s nightmare and you meet people who have gone through (tragedy) like us, and they say it’s better to get involved in a project,” he said.

Metz and his sister, Johanna Coleman, say many area contractors have offered to donate supplies and equipment to make the project, including new fencing at the park, happen. Metz hopes it can happen soon, though a lot of planning remains.

“We’re pretty sure it’ll happen this season,” Metz said. “It’s exciting, particularly when you start to look at blueprints.”

The new basketball courts, two smaller half courts and a full-sized court and the roller hockey rink will be done in asphalt. The family also hopes to find someone willing to donate a large boulder to which they can mount a plaque to explain the additions’ significance.

The family also is hosting a 5K race on May 30 in James’ memory to raise more funds for the park improvements. The race begins at Keysa Park at 10 a.m. and ends back at the park. Its course will take runners past James’ home, where he played basketball on his street. James’ father and brother plan to run the race. His mother plans to walk the route, but also has been running to work up to possibly running it, making it her first “race.”

Online registration can be done for the race by going to JamesMetzMemorialFund.org or through fliers available in many stores throughout the village.

email: krobinson@buffnews.com