DITMARS — Bocce is almost back at Astoria Park.
Residents who've been working since last summer to restore the park's rundown bocce ball court say they're almost ready to welcome back players this spring — but they need to raise about $1,500 to finish the job.
The Astoria Park Alliance is currently hosting an online fundraiser to cover the remaining costs of the restoration, including the 125 bags of clay material it takes to cover the surface of the bocce court, according to organizer Anthony Liberatoscioli.
The Parks Department has pledged to donate 65 bags of the clay, but the Astoria Park court requires more material because it's slightly larger than a typical bocce space, he said.
"This court is extra long — it's about 84 feet long. To make sure it's got a proper playing surface, you really need to have about two inches or so in terms of the thickness of the clay," Liberatoscioli explained. "We're just trying to make sure we do the job right."
The court has accumulated hard dirt, rocks and sticks that make it unsuitable for bocce (DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly)
The Alliance has been helping a group of volunteers refurbish the bocce court, which has been in the park for decades but fell into disrepair over the years as it filled with dirt and rocks, becoming a "flooded, muddy, unplayable mess" Liberatoscioli said.
Dan Berrios, a former Marine and bocce aficionado, has been leading the charge to make the court playable again. He and others spent hundreds of hours this past fall digging out the court, installing a drain and repainting its frame, the group said.
Installing the clay surface is the last step in the process, Berrios noted.
"This is the final material that we use for the bocce balls to roll on," he explained. "We could use every penny that we can get."
Once the additional bags of clay are purchased, the group plans to install them during a volunteer work day on March 25.
Their goal is to have the court finished and ready to play on by Earth Day on April 22, when the Alliance is hosting a block party along Shore Boulevard from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Berrios said they also plan to host bocce ball tournaments in the park throughout the spring and summer.
"We want all ages to come in and learn how to play the game and to enjoy [it]," he said. "It's not only for elderly men. Anybody can play this game."