Scenic Hudson “optimistic” about 2012 opening
By Kevin Foley
Land conservation and historic preservation organization Scenic Hudson’s plans for the group’s 87-acre West Point Foundry Preserve property inched forward at the Cold Spring Planning Board workshop last Tuesday, Jan. 25. The nearly three-hour session was spent parsing over some of the multitude of details comprising the ambitious $3.6 million proposal to create an educational and recreational historic heritage site intended to draw visitors from up and down the Hudson Valley – – and beyond.
As reported last summer, the preserve is now linked to nearby properties under the umbrella of the West Point Foundry Archaeological Site and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as having national significance. The other properties are, Foundry Dock Park, the Kemble estate (both owned by Scenic Hudson), the Chapel of Our Lady Restoration, and the Putnam County Historical Society and Foundry School Museum. Scenic Hudson’s plans include the construction of a sculptural water wheel to demonstrate power generation at the original Civil War foundry where armaments were manufactured, and a replica of a former lookout tower for testing the famous Parrott Gun artillery piece. Other amenities will include landscaped walking trails and roads, educational programs, picnic areas, as well as enhanced cultivation of the natural areas.
Sitting around a table piled high with design maps and binders of memoranda, the four planning board members present were generally complimentary of Scenic Hudson’s presentations to date and it didn’t seem as if they had any major objections to the project. Nevertheless, they continued to raise concerns about traffic impact and coordination, road construction standards, storm water runoff, sanitation, signage and security.
Board members Arne Saari and Karen Doyle, for example, worried about the utility of the compost toilets (previously approved by the Village) once the site is handling the anticipated increased visitor traffic including groups of school children. “I went down to Little Stony Point (the state-owned park property along the river just north of Cold Spring) and was appalled at the condition of the toilet there,” said Saari. He described strong odors, graffiti and evidence of nocturnal partying. “And they supposedly have 24/7 monitoring,” said Saari.
Board chairman, Joseph Barbaro, expressed security concerns including unintended recreation such as joyriding in cars at night.
Rita Shaheen, Director of Parks for Scenic Hudson, and Kim Mathews, the consulting design engineer, assured board members they shared their concerns. They indicated Scenic Hudson would have a maintenance contract for the toilets and the facilities would be locked along with the proposed main gate entrance at the foot of Kemble Avenue. They said studies indicated the two toilet facilities were adequate for anticipated regular usage and that arrangements for portable toilets would be made for higher volume events. Mathews also pointed out the large tract of land has always been open to foot traffic and would remain so after the construction phase. She said there would be barriers and signs making it clear that the park is closed to vehicles as well as pedestrians after dark.
The Scenic Hudson reps conceded that special events, only a few each year are expected, might present added traffic problems on the site and for the Village. They said the site had adequate space for daily parking and space for overflow had been incorporated into the site plan along with a staff protocol for managing vehicles. They agreed to come back to the planning board with more specific suggestions on how to manage added traffic in and out at Kemble Avenue, including the use of trained traffic officials (typically police officers).
Deciding who would foot the bill for an added police presence could be a small sticking point down the road. From the project’s outset, Scenic Hudson has emphasized the economic benefits for Cold Spring and Putnam County with the development of a destination tourist site. Mathews described the site’s planned multiple access points as one of its unique features. These include the existing pedestrian path from the Cold Spring Metro-North station, a built-up vehicular and pedestrian entrance from Kemble Avenue as well as a planned visitor bus drop off point on Chestnut Street intended for school and other group visits in tandem with the nearby Foundry Museum.
After a few hours reviewing items such as drainage pipe angles, road grades, the stability of stone walls and wheelchair access to picnic tables, both Shaheen and Mathews gingerly urged the planning board to move forward by declaring itself the “lead agency” for the project, a procedural step that would start a 30-day clock for other agencies to raise issues. Chairman Barbaro said only that the board would consider the matter in due course. In the meantime he agreed to have the consulting engineers for Scenic Hudson continue to communicate with Robert Cameron of Putnam Engineering, consultant for the board, in order to expedite resolution of several pages more of outstanding, largely technical issues.
The now almost four-year effort to receive necessary approvals, involving federal, state, county as well as local regulators, does appear to have the finish line in sight. Scenic Hudson Parks Director, Shaheen, expressed cautious optimism, after the session, that the construction phase might begin sometime in 2011. She estimated that construction could take 9-12 months depending on when it starts, suggesting a spring/summer 2012 opening was possible. The preserve would be closed during construction.