MAHOPAC, N.Y. - It’s been 17 months in the making and has faced myriad obstacles along the way, but the creation of a new public lakefront park and municipal parking lot in downtown Mahopac is officially underway.

Last week, workers began leveling the area that will eventually become a green space and serve as a “pocket park” for the community. It was the last remaining parcel available on Lake Mahopac and the town purchased it in March 2018 for $1 million. Last month, the town finally completed a deal with Tompkins Mahopac Bank to purchase an acre’s worth of land in the bank’s adjacent parking lot for $395,000. That land also included the former Chamber of Commerce building, which will be razed later this month, making way for a 90-space municipal parking lot. New sidewalks and curb cuts for new access and egress into the municipal lot and the bank’s parking area will be constructed by the state Department of Transportation (DOT) and the traffic light at the Route 6/6N split will be reconfigured to allow motorists in and out of the lot.

The project has been driven by Councilman Mike Barile, a former developer who once owned the property known as Swan Cove (where the park will be) before selling it to another developer, Fran Cotaj. Cotaj, in turn, sold it to the town.

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“I visualized this for so many years,” Barile said, noting that the project has had its critics. “It was tough having to take all the BS on it from people who are anti-me and it was affecting the town. It was foolish. Once that [Chamber] building is down and this is leveled flat and you can drive your car up to me and look right here [at the lake], you tell me [if it was worth it.]”

Last Wednesday, workers used a backhoe to remove trees and debris from the property and level the land. Volunteer Michael Bunyea of Excel Electric set up temporary electrical service and George Vignogna, Barile said, will take down the Chamber building. Workers are removing the building’s glass and copper and other material, which will be recycled.

In addition to the volunteers, Barile’s company, LynLil Associates, is helping to clean up the property at no charge.

“Once we have this cleaned in the next week or so, we will rent an excavator and crush the old [bungalow] foundations,” Barile said, referring to the five old dilapidated cottages that volunteers tore down last summer. “At that point, you will be able to see what the future is going to be, a beautiful leveled area for parking and a park. In one corner will be a recreation building for a satellite office, storage, and bathrooms.”

Mike’s Blue Wheel Service will provide a Dumpster truck at no cost to remove the debris—the same thing they did when the cottages were razed.

Barile said the bathrooms will be state-of-the restroom—no port-a-potties. A sewer connection is already on the property for them.

“The biggest problem will be getting the water here,” Barile said. “We researched it and it will probably have to come in from across the street by the Sunoco gas station. We will have to drill to the island (between 6 and 6N). We will have to bring clean water in for the bank; that was part of our agreement. [The bank] was on a well that was maintained by filters. They will come off that and go on town water. The sewer is here; gas is here. Everything else is just elbow grease.”

Several old private telephone poles will be removed, and large rocks currently piled on the property’s perimeter will be put to use.

“We will use those rocks at the entrance and the turnaround for the bank and for decorative things throughout the park,” Barile explained.

The new park will be connected to the neighboring Chamber Park via a footbridge that passes over a small waterway.

“That waterway would be perfect for ice skating in the winter,” Barile said. “For people who have a fear of going out on the lake, this is a very shallow inlet. It freezes solid. Parents can watch their little kids learn how to ice skate.”

Supervisor Ken Schmitt said the community has been supportive of the project.

“All the feedback I’ve gotten from the residents since [The Mahopac News] story came out last week [regarding the purchase of the parking lot from the bank] has been nothing but positive. The residents are supportive. It’s encouraging. An overwhelming number of people support it, as well as the business owners because we are creating parking, which is something they’ve been asking for for years. It’s coming to fruition.”

More volunteers are still needed, Barile said.

“Anyone who wants to volunteer, reach out to me,” the councilman said. “We could use a couple of machine operators.”