Lancaster’s Keysa Park has a new look, and it’s creating a buzz in the town.
A roller hockey rink and two rebuilt basketball courts are the latest additions to an old park in the heart of the village.
Now the park, off Vandenberg Avenue, is the second-busiest park in the town, said Mark Lubera, town parks crew chief. “It’s the most well-used park we’ve got, outside of Westwood Park, which serves a different use. It’s a good neighborhood park.”
But the improvements can tug at one’s heart. The park has become a memorial to two Lancaster teens who died in separate accidents within two years of another.
The family of Bryce Buchholz, a 14-year-old Lancaster freshman killed in 2012 by a drunken driver as he pedaled home on his orange BMX bicycle, raised money to create a bike and skate park in his honor that opened in fall 2014.
Autumn 2014 brought another tragedy when James Metz, another 14-year-old Lancaster freshman who loved to play pickup basketball, was killed in a midair plane collision above Buffalo-Lancaster Regional Airport while participating in a program to introduce youths to the world of flying.
Just two weeks ago, two rebuilt basketball courts and a roller hockey rink in another section of the park opened in James’ memory – something his younger brother, Donovan, wanted to do. Almost immediately following the tragedy, Donovan began raising money for the improvements as part of the James Metz Memorial Fund he helped form.
In all, $393,000 worth of improvements have been made to Keysa Park, most of it donated via fundraisers. That amount does not reflect in-kind services provided by the town and donations of blacktop.
“Because of the skate park and improvements to the basketball courts, and the addition of roller hockey, I see many more teens up there than we have seen in decades,” Town Supervisor Johanna M. Coleman said Thursday. “It has grown in its use.”
Coleman is James’ aunt. And on Sept. 27, the second anniversary of her nephew’s death, she joined nearly 70 relatives and friends to celebrate his life by going to the park. “I even shot some hoops,” she told fellow Town Board members.
“When we were up there with extended family and friends, they said, ‘My God, this is beautiful,’ ” Coleman said. “They were just thrilled. I’ve seen comments on Facebook when pictures of the courts are posted, and likewise, with the skate park. The park is getting used and is getting kids outside, and not with their heads buried in their iPads.”
The park also includes a pool, wading pool, picnic pavilion and two baseball diamonds.
“It’s pretty all-inclusive now,” Lubera said. “It’s a great centerpiece for that neighborhood.”