Ben and Cathy Ballone have big shoes to fill. In fact, some would say those shoes are elephant-sized. As owners of the property once known as The Catskill Game Farm, the Ballones know many people from around the area are watching and waiting with bated breath to see what they do with the place. Purchased in 2012, the park has remained virtually closed since 2006. Within recent weeks the Ballones launched an online campaign to raise funds needed to give new life to the Old Game Farm.
According to their website, the Ballones are “very interested in preserving what we can for the public to be able to visit and take a walk down memory lane. We purchased the property two years ago with dreams of turning it into a campground with some animals integrated into the experience, but this has proven to be a major undertaking.” The Ballones are now actively seeking donations at a range of levels, from an “internet high five” donation of $1 to a substantial gift of $5,000 (or more, if you are so inclined). The owners hope to raise $2 million to restore the buildings, set up a campground, create a Bed & Breakfast, and of course, keep some animals on the property. If all goes well, they envision a museum with educational programs aimed at school children.
The Ballones are committed to “respecting the history” of the Old Game Farm and “preserving as much as possible while converting it into something families can enjoy.” Once sufficient financial backing is obtained, the owners hope to offer free admission to the park where visitors will find memorabilia including photographs, artifacts, structures and even visits from former employees. Workshops and tours are also in the works as is a disc golf course. As a gesture of goodwill, Boy Scout troops and alumni are invited to camp on the grounds for free.
It remains to be seen what the Ballones will be able to accomplish. But with the help of the many thousands of people who once adored the Catskill Game Farm, anything is possible, even filling elephant-sized shoes.