MALONE — The heart and soul of Malone has changed to cold, rock-hard concrete.
After nearly a decade of looking at the eyesore Memorial Park has become, villagers want to see the original spirit returned.
About 50 people crowded into the village meeting room this week to hear about plans for the park, which was moved and redesigned by the State Department of Transportation in a downtown-reconstruction project in the mid to late 1980s.
The people want a return to an attractive, welcoming village green with trees and grass, instead of the thick, bulky, bleak walls of concrete there now.
They want the veterans memorials and American flag given the place of respect they deserve.
They want to see it returned to the Memorial Park of days past, when things were less complicated, more functional and pleasant to look at.
And they want to have the task done by July 4.
The committee formed to lead the task of rejuvenating the park gave a progress report and laid out goals.
What the committee hopes to do is bring back the "feel" of the village Main Street, said Boyce Sherwin of the Malone Office of Economic Development.
"It is an area where the people of the village come together. And it is an area of exchange where people meet and greet, where they exchange ideas, where they do commerce. It is the heart and soul of the village."
John Tulloch, who calls the park "Fort Malone," chairs the committee and is confident that people will favor the change.
"There isn't anybody we've talked to who really likes it the way it is. Everybody tells us they liked it the way it was."
The village green was taken away, and the committee wants to bring it back.
"We have a memorial park for all of our veterans, and it seems to get lost in this massive concrete," Tullock said. "It doesn't have the aesthetics that it used to have."
A joint effort is being planned between village, town, county and state, with all donating equipment and time for the project, which will involve removing the mountain of concrete.
Tim Lashomb, of Malone Revitalization Foundation, is also working on the committee, which started fund-raising with a goal of $25,000. About $8,000 has already been raised.
About $5,000 was raised by Malone artist Ruth Jones Ryan, who designed and sold an original Christmas card and framed print of the original park, with proceeds going to park restoration.
With so many positive comments on the project, she has no doubt that it will be successful.
"It's this kind of enthusiasm that's going to make Malone the charming little village that it used to be, not a commercial place with a lot of cement buildings and, unfortunately, prisons," she said.
"But it will be a charming place that will draw people to visit. I look forward to the summer tourists coming back to see what we have done."
Ryan was instrumental in getting the restoration effort under way.
A radio-thon is being planned the weekend before the Super Bowl, with details to be announced, and other events will be scheduled.
While the committee hopes to return the park to its earlier look, some things cannot be changed.
Howard Place, a street that was turned into a sidewalk when the park was moved, cannot be returned. Signs and traffic will have to be studied.
Malone Mayor Joyce Tavernier said she was very encouraged by the turnout. She sees it as another beginning for the village.