By Kevin E. Foley
The Cold Spring Planning Board’s public hearing on Scenic Hudson’s proposed historic preservation park on its 87-acre West Point Foundry Preserve turned into a love fest immediately after the group’s presentation ended. The hearing was held on Tuesday, Aug. 9, at the Putnam County Historical Society & Foundry School Museum, which borders the preserve. As Planning Board Chairman Joseph Barbaro called out speaker’s names, one by one they rose in praise of the plan and the organization that will implement it soon after the now very likely approval vote by the board.
The audience of approximately 25 was composed of representatives of affiliated or like-minded institutions and several familiar citizens from the local planning and environmental scene. If opposition exists to Scenic Hudson’s plans, no evidence of it appeared at the hearing or at any of the many open Planning Board meetings and workshops held for the last few years. Rita Shaheen, director of parks for Scenic Hudson, led the summation of her group’s plan, beginning with its 15-year ownership and her personal involvement since the purchase. Shaheen emphasized the importance of the site’s history as the key motivation to develop the park and underscored that Scenic Hudson had worked with Michigan Technical University for eight years on archaeological recovery at the site. “Essential products in the history of the country were made at the foundry, this is why Scenic Hudson is seeking to preserve and interpret the site,” she said.
Consultants from Mathews-Nielsen, a landscape architectural firm, followed Shaheen, offering details about the physical layout of the park, including vehicular and pedestrian traffic flow, the use of creative signage to convey both information and history and the deployment of several interpretative pieces intended to replicate functions at the original foundry.“The site was filled with noise and sweat and action, we want to capture some of the feel of things at that time,” said Darlene Montgomery of the firm. Montgomery and her colleagues also stressed the low-impact of the plans on the surrounding natural areas.
Stacey Matson-Zuvic, from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; Virginia Kasinski of Glynwood Center, Gail Greet Hannah from the Chapel Restoration and Kathy Hamel of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust all spoke in favor of the project and its value to the region and local community.
Mindy Krazmien, executive director of the Historical Society and Foundry School Museum, spoke about the Society’s close consultation with Scenic Hudson on the historical research and presentation at the site as well as the museum’s continuing tours of the site with school children and other groups. (Click HERE for a short video of Krazmien’s comments.)
“This is very impressive, quality work, brilliantly designed, but simple,” said Anne Impellizzeri, a member of Cold Spring’s Special Comprehensive Plan Board. Jonathan Kruk, a professional storyteller, expressed his appreciation for the foundry project by relating an amusing anecdote about giving a walking tour of the area and encountering many questions on the history of the site and, when it came to answers, “having to make some up.”
In response to a question, Shaheen said construction of the park could take upwards of 12 months and the preserve would likely be closed during that time. An actual schedule would depend on when official approval to begin is granted. At the end of the hearing the Planning Board voted to close the public hearing phase of their deliberation.