Town Board and Recreation and Parks Commission talk in joint work session

March 28, 2008
by Gustavo Larramendi

Last Tuesday, March 25th, the New Castle Town Board and the Recreation and Parks Commission held a joint planning session, which was also attended by town administrator Jerry Faiella and Recreation and Parks Department Supervisor Bob Snyder.

The purpose of the meeting was to update board members on numerous outstanding issues which the commission is facing and to exchange ideas that would enhance the recreational activities and facilities within New Castle. The commission is an independent organization whose members are appointed by the board for seven-year terms. However budgets, funding authorizations and town regulations remain in the control of the board, so cooperation between our two organizations is key to optimizing the commission’s efforts.

Gedney Park

At the top of our agenda were improvements to Gedney Park, including plans for a basketball court, improved traffic flow, a reconfigured rear parking lot and an environmentally sensitive path connecting the front and rear of the park. In figuring our timeline for the reconstruction of the upper Gedney soccer field we need to take into account the completion date of the recently-approved Amsterdam field, since we would like to have the Amsterdam field available for play before taking the Gedney field off-line for repairs.

Burden and Amsterdam Properties

The commission and town board agreed that we should assess the buildings sitting on both the Amsterdam and Burden properties to decide on either removal or potential uses.  The Burden property has a garage that is structurally unsound, even dangerous. We recommended that it be removed, and the town engineer agreed, so it will be removed prior to formal dedication of the park in June. We suggested to the town board that because of the fairly large area that’s fenced in and its many beautiful trails, the Burden property might become another favorite place for dog lovers to gather. 

The town engineer will inspect the structure on the Amsterdam property to determine its soundness and the cost of getting it to some state of usability. We’ll continue to brainstorm with the town board on possible uses and make some recommendations to them. 

Dog leash laws

We reviewed the dog regulations at Gedney Park and discussed a survey we made of about a dozen neighboring towns, all of which were very restrictive in their town parks and are very conscious of liability. We recommended that the hours that dogs may be off-leash be extended somewhat and that dogs be allowed off-leash on trails under voice command. We’ll still be one of the dog-friendliest towns. Of course the board would hold public hearings before making changes to existing regulations.

Short on field space

Everyone is aware of the acute need for additional playing fields to accommodate the continued growth of youth sports activities and there is a great desire to have a basketball court in the downtown area. We had originally identified a site behind the Community Center, but it had serious drainage issues that made it costly to build. We understand it’s difficult, but it would be such a positive for the downtown area that we’ll keep looking.

Recreation master plan

The Board asked the commission to prepare their assessment of the Recreation Master Plan after we have had time to review it with our new members. Some of our objectives are easy ones: better signs, fixing up parking lots, trail maintenance. But capital projects such as an indoor pool, teen center and expanded recreational facilities, need the support of the town.

Can-do spirit

Town Supervisor Barbara Girard closed the meeting by discussing the possibility of acquiring the auditorium as well as open land on the Reader’s Digest property to be used for recreational purposes. The commission was very excited by that possibility and expressed its support in exploring the options, since this could be the only chance left to acquire the amount of land needed to address some of the long term recommendations contained in the master plan.

We all felt the work session had been very productive. We chatted afterwards and exchanged pleasantries, before the town board opened its regular meeting. There was a shared feeling of can-do spirit between the organizations.

Gustavo Larramendi is chairman of the Recreation and Parks Commission. He works with commissioners Joyce Kerulo, Stuart Berg, Chris Johnson, John Re and Martin Hewitt. Special acknowledgement to Dr. Ed Haberman, a commissioner emeritus, who served for seven years with distinction.