Engaging community in plan for parks
This upcoming Oct. 7, Patchogue Village will be hosting a community forum event in the Patchogue Theatre to roll out the $5 million parks project master plan. Dennis Smith, special assistant to village government in charge of overseeing the project, said he hopes the night will attract over 600 people to receive feedback from village constituents.
Mayor Paul Pontieri said he is very excited to get the project moving forward. “This is the first step in the parks project and we are very close to coming out with the final plan,” he said.
Earlier in January, Smith said, an anonymous donor came to Pontieri with $5 million to donate towards revamping Patchogue Village parks, specifically Shore Front Park and Waldbauer Park (Ryder Avenue Park). Then, in February, the mayor and donor began to look at some possible ideas.
After some discussion, it was decided to use $500,000 toward the Patchogue Theatre to replace the deteriorated theatre seating, leaving the parks project with $4.5 million.
By mid-March Pontieri sought Smith to manage the large-scale project and see it done right. Then, in April, the village contracted Quennelle Rothschild & Partners, a landscape architect, and an engineer.
At this time, they developed a questionnaire to reach out to the community for project input before creating a master plan. Smith said 3,800 copies were mailed out to Patchogue residents and it was also made available online and in Spanish.
The village received about 400 results, which at first discouraged Smith. “When we first got that back, I was thinking 400 out of 4,000. That’s terrible,” he said. But then after talking to people who conduct surveys, he was comforted by a 10 percent return.
When asked why getting resident feedback is so important, Smith responded, “Whatever innovations we come up with, it is going to be impactful for decades to come, so we want to get it right and we want community input.”
The results made way for the master plan, including activities specifically requested by residents. Among the many suggestions, the questionnaire revealed residents are hungry for more beach activities, walking trails, a splash park, a dog park, kayaking and sailboat launch sites and more.
One of the most sought-after activities is a walking path with interpretive signage.
Smith said they have discussed the possibility of expanding the existing walking path from Shore Front Park across the street into the back of Waldbauer Park and around the two pond areas.
The biggest part of the project, he said, would be Shore Front Park, where the shoreline needs to be hardened. The deteriorated bulkhead causes concerns for the park and securing the shoreline will be pricey. He said he hopes to find a practical and cost-effective way to harden the shoreline and protect the park and whatever new installations are made there. He suggested the possibility of a promenade into a boardwalk, or a beach area where the water can wash up.
In addition, Smith hinted at the possibility of encompassing some state-owned properties located near Shore Front Park from New York Rising. The properties acquired by the state were once homes victimized by Sandy. He said some of the properties would become parkland. As of now, there are about five usable properties, one of which is located at the end of Cedar Avenue. This parcel of land is in a residential area, which could be made available for a passive park with a view to the bay, he explained.
The Four Sisters tennis courts will be resurfaced, Father Tortora Park might see another bocce ball court, and Belzak Park will be revamped.
Despite all the ideas being thrown around, one thing is for certain — the Clemente Ball Field at Waldbauer Park will be completely redone with a signature turf and grass field with irrigation, a batting cage and dugouts.
The cost he estimated at about $350,000.
Both the Patchogue Youth Leagues and Patchogue-Medford School District girls’ softball teams will be able to play on the new field. The other two fields at the park will also be maintained.
The new field could potentially be installed within the next few weeks, he revealed, as the first step in the project. Smith said they already decided to use the Town of Brookhaven to build the field with their contractors. He said it’s the easiest choice because they can build exactly what they want. The field should be completed four to six weeks after construction begins.
After the unveiling event Smith hopes to receive an even deeper understanding of what the community is looking for. Then, he and the architects will go back to the drawing board and edit the project based on practicality. He said the anticipated starting date is April of next year.
Pontieri said the project is a tremendous responsibility with a lot of money, making it extremely important to receive community input. “The parks are the community and it’s one of those things that government gives back to the community,” he said, looking forward to the night.
Everyone is welcome to attend the event at the Patchogue Theatre at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7.
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