Our Town: Eisenhower Park embodies optimism in America

Dr Tom Ferraro
Eisenhower Park is a good example of the American philosophy'build it and they will come'


If you have been feeling low and mean based upon the economy, the election, polarization of thought, riots in the streets, the COVID pandemic and the unsettling state of the economy, here is what I would recommend you do. Get in your car, drive over to the Eisenhower Park, find a place to park and take a long walk. You may be amazed at what you see and just as importantly you will find out the secret of what makes America such a powerful, ingenious nation that remains the envy of the world.

I went there last Sunday morning to get some mild exercise since my gym at Healthtrax remains closed. I pulled into the southwestern part of the park and parked. In front of me was the huge Northwell Health Ice Rink and next to that was the mammoth Nassau County Aquatic Center, which is considered to be one of the nation’s premier swim centers. But those two standouts are merely the beginning of the show.

As I walked along the track/walking path I passed a state-of-the-art baseball diamond with some young female softball players warming up. Years ago a guy I knew who had a company who installed these kind of baseball diamonds and I knew the astronomical cost of building and maintaining a field like this. The famous line “build it and they will come” from the film “Field of Dreams” may be true enough, but the cost of building it is no joke.
I walked along and saw a large circular caged area, which was a batting cage with at least 15 stalls. Then to my right was a circular track for track and field events with a state-of-the-art foam and rubber track.

Up a ways further on my left were two “wow! knock your socks off” mini golf courses with waterfalls, multi-tiered flower gardens and ponds. I later learned that these two cute mini golf courses are considered the best on Long Island.

I kept on going and to my left were many large grass soccer fields filled with players from a variety of leagues and skill levels. Then came a righthand turn and I walked toward the Harry Chapin Lakeside Theater fast along a big lake and with a lovely grass slope like at Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts. Mention the name Harry Chapin and warmth comes to my heart. He was the guy who  funded some of my research while I was in graduate school at SUNY Stony Brook. A true philanthropist.

Walking past the Harry Chapin Lakeside Theater, I came upon the Veterans Memorial commemorating those lost in World War II, the Korean War and the wars in Southeast Asia. Then around the other side of the lake was the 9/11 Memorial designed by architects Gavosto and Striga and displaying two tall aluminum towers, salvage steel from Ground Zero and a pear tree grown from one of seeds from the lone surviving tree from Ground Zero.

As I made my way back to my car, I thought how amazing this park is and how strong is the spirit of America. We have the gumption to build sports facilities, which are significant investments and can only be built by an optimistic county government that knows that if you “build it they will come.” They built baseball diamonds and batting cages and tracks and mini golf courses and soccer fields with the same hopeful spirit.

I know mostly about golf and I know that Eisenhower Park has three gems in this park that are just waiting to be developed into world class venues. The Red course used to hold the Lightpath Classic and back in 1926 they even held the PGA Championship at Eisenhower Park. I know they have a PGA professional working in the park and he has remarked to me how these three courses are like national treasures just waiting to be reborn.

Walking through this park, you sense that it reflects the optimism and hope that makes America such an impressive nation. This place we call America is indefatigable in its spirit, drive and energy. We may be faced with a pandemic and with a variety of struggles and stressors, but this friendly park is a good reminder of just who we are as Americans. That prophetic line “build it and they will come” demonstrates America’s hope and valor. It’s enough to make you proud.

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