Town Will Look to Fund $3 Million in Park Upgrades

The renovation of Airport Park on Hill Street, where three soccer/lacrosse fields will be constructed, includes construction of a utility field, restrooms, playground, pavilion and concession stand. Credits: File
Soccer fields at McDonough Park will be relocated to Airport Park and will be replaced by three baseball/softball fields. Credits: File

MAHOPAC, N.Y.-Members of the Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee went before the Town Board last week to encourage it to move forward with two major park renovation projects that between them will cost slightly more than $3 million to complete.

The first project, which recreation officials said is “shovel-ready,” is the renovation of Airport Park on Hill Street where three soccer/lacrosse fields will be constructed, along with a utility field, restroom building, playground, pavilion and concession stand. In addition, fencing and a parking lot will be installed and the driveway upgraded. The cost of the project is $2.2 million.

The second project features the deconstruction of the soccer fields at McDonough Park and their relocation to Airport Park.They will be replaced by three baseball/softball fields. Miscellaneous improvements include the addition of batting cages, a pavilion and a playground. Recreation officials said that while that project isn’t shovel-ready, it’s close. The estimated cost of the work is $907,500, according to Insite Engineering, the firm hired by the town to develop the two projects.

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Bob Buckley, chair of the Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee, told the board at its Feb. 14 meeting that the improvements are all part of the town’s recreation master plan.

“The master plan is how we got to where we are today,” Buckley said. “There’s been a lot of research, a lot of surveys. Now, we ask the Town Board how we can move forward with the McDonough Park and Airport Park properties.”

Buckley explained that in 2005, the town signed a 99-year lease with the county for the property that is now Airport Park with the stipulation it be used for recreation. He said a $250,000 grant from the state has already been secured by Sen. Terrence Murphy and $369,000 has been committed by the town. A $100,000 grant is being sought by the county to address a water runoff issue at Lake McGregor, for a total of $719,000.

“That takes a big bite out of the $2 million,” Buckley said, “but we can’t sit on this any longer.”

Buckley said that Airport Park will also feature walking paths through its wooded areas, adding that building restrooms is crucial to elevate the quality of the park.

“We cannot have a major park facility without restrooms,” he said. “The Chamber Park is a good example of that. They have all these great events there, but there are no facilities. We would love to make all our parks perfect, but it comes down to money. You have to find a balance.”

The town has a Parkland Trust Fund that was created by developers who are required to pay $7,500 for every residential unit they build and $3,500 for every condominium. It was established for occasions such as these, but Buckley said the fund is becoming less and less viable.

“That ATM is drying up because land is drying up,” he said. “The town has to figure out how to fund recreation projects moving forward. There are projects everywhere that need to get done. It’s a lot of money.”

However, recreation officials said they’d prefer that the Airport and McDonough projects not be altered or reduced in scope.

“Everything is here; it’s the complete package,” said Recreation and Parks Director Jim Gilchrist.

“We don’t want you to nickel and dime it and take things out,” Buckley added.

Dave Furfaro, vice chair of the committee, said the quality of a town’s park is essential to its well-being.

“How we educate and recreate our people is our identity,” he told the board. “We live here because we love our community. If we don’t move forward, we are going to fall behind. Why else move here?”

Town Board members said they were amenable to figuring out how to fund the projects.

“I go to [Airport Park] all the time and it does need this loving touch,” said Councilman Jonathan Schneider. “It would be a spectacular addition to our town.”

Councilman Mike Barile said that with interest rates so low, the town would be foolish not to bond for the projects now.

“We are borrowing money between 1 and 2 percent—it’s a gift,” he said. “In a few years, those costs will double. We should be doing everything now. I don’t want to wait any longer.”

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