Town Moves to Ensure Grants for Park Upgrades

The master plan for Airport Park includes the construction of five multi-purpose fields with new parking and roads. Credits: File photo

MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The Town Board passed a resolution last week that will pave the way for it to receive two state grants totaling $350,000 that will be used to complete some major renovations at two town parks.

The State and Municipal Facilities Program (SAM) grants will be used to perform a complete overhaul of the facilities at Airport Park and to renovate tennis and basketball courts at Sycamore Park.

The resolution passed by the board directs town comptroller Mary Ann Maxwell to write a letter to state officials committing the town to pay for the balance of the projects that are not covered by the grants.

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“We have the grants, but [the state] wants to make sure we can complete the projects, so we had to give the estimates and promise the town will pay for [the balance of the projects],” said Jim Gilchrist, director of the Recreation and Parks Department. “It could take another six months before the grants are officially approved.”

The Sycamore Park project will see two tennis courts refurbished and the remaining two converted into basketball courts. The cost of that project is estimated at $129,151. The town will receive a $100,000 SAM grant to pay for most of it and will be responsible for the balance.

The project involves demolishing and moving the material from the old tennis courts, building a timber retaining wall and chain-link fence, putting down an asphalt top course and binder course, installing basketball hoop and nets, applying a color-resilient surface treatment and adding the stripping.

Gilchrist said the town already has two basketball courts at Sycamore Park, but they are located where the proposed community center will be built, so they needed to be relocated.

“[The tennis court area] was the most logical spot to put them,” he said.

The project at Airport Park is the more ambitious of the two and is part of the town’s parks and recreation Master Plan.

The property at Airport Park is under lease from Putnam County and features three soccer fields. It was formerly a small airfield with gravel-road access. The eastern portion of the site was once a working farm and is now overgrown with brush. As per the Master Plan, when completed the revitalized park will be equipped with five multipurpose fields, a playground, a picnic area, an athletic support building, grandstands and gravel parking lot.

“It will be a facility, I can tell you, that will be used quite extensively,” Supervisor Ken Schmitt said earlier this year when the project was under state environmental quality review (SEQR). “There will be a lot of games that will be played there. It’s a community park. Discussions [on the project] will continue and the community will be involved as part of the process and will be made aware of where the funding is coming from.”

The estimated cost of phase one of the Airport Park project is $619,845. The SAM grant is for $250,000, leaving the town responsible for the $369,845 balance.
Gilchrist said phase one is the biggest phase of the project and will include things such as the construction of a parking lot, road improvements, earth work and grading.

“There will be other phases for things like installing fences, building the playground and things like that,” he said.

Gilchrist said that while the plan currently calls for five open fields, a sixth may be eventually added.

“We call them open fields; they are for sports like soccer and lacrosse,” he said. “They are not baseball fields with a diamond and fences.”

Gilchrist added that once the state receives the letter from Maxwell regarding this first round of grants, the application will be sent for the final review.

“We had to do the same thing at Carmada Park for a building we built and the dugouts we installed,” he explained. “It’s the same process: to show we have funds to complete the project.”

Councilman John Lupinacci said the town doesn’t have to explain right now where it will find the remaining money, it just has to promise that it will.

“The town is committed to the overall cost of the projects minus the grants,” he said.

Gilchrist said the town will likely seek out other grants to help pay off the balance of the two projects.

“We will look for the money from somewhere,” he said.

Lupinacci said the Airport Park project is still a way down the road, but noted it was important to get the funding lined up now.

“Hopefully we can start it in a year or two, but this [grant] is the initial get-up-and-go regarding the funding,” he said.

Councilman Jonathan Schneider summed up the situation.

“We have two projects totaling a cost of about three-quarters of a million dollars, with the most out-of-pocket [costs] for the town of Carmel at $400,000,” he said. “The worst-case scenario is if we can’t find any other money, it will cost the town around $400,000 to have two of our parks greatly improved.”

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