Ideas for park improvements presented to Town Board
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Philipstown resident Claudio Marzollo, whose name graces the Philipstown Community Center-Recreation Center, offered last week to provide a $50,000 matching grant to build a year-round pavilion at the Philipstown Park on Route 9D in Garrison.
Joined by associates from the Friends of Philipstown Recreation, a not-for-profit group that helps support town recreation projects, Marzollo announced his intent at the Town Board’s formal monthly meeting Thursday night (July 11).
The proposal came as the Friends’ group presented their ideas for a pavilion to serve as a shelter in winter alongside an ice-skating rink – another part of their vision – and general-use facility in summer. As sketched out by the Friends, the pavilion would include restrooms, storage, a small kitchen, concession stand, fireplace, winter heating, and picnic area.
However, with an estimated cost of $175,000 if fully contracted-out, the project needs funding, Marzollo said. At present, the approximately 3-year-old Friends group has raised about $45,000, he said. Some local contractors are willing to donate their services, “but that still leaves us quite a bit short,” Marzollo observed.
To help cover the difference, he pledged $50,000 as a matching grant, through which he and his wife will match every $1 donated, up to $50,000. If the hoped-for sum is raised, when combined with the $45,000 already in place, the Friends would have $145,000, a big chunk of the requisite financing. “If we can get the match, we could get this done,” Marzollo predicted. In addition to the challenge funds, “I’d love to see us get some money from the county,” he said.
He noted that in 1996 the Open Space Institute gave the park land, in return for $1, and subsequently provided the recreation center building, a short drive away. To date, “the park has cost the town very, very little money.” If all goes well, he added, ground-breaking for the pavilion could occur this fall.
Supervisor Richard Shea promised aid for the pavilion. As a Town Board, “we’ll get together and discuss how we’re going to support the effort,” he said. “It’s a terrific idea.” He also praised the generosity of the Marzollos and the planning by the Friends. “It’s an amazing amount of work in a pretty short amount of time.”
“Everything right now seemed to be falling into place to start moving on this,” Friends of Philipstown Recreation President Jeff Dain commented.
Joel Conybear, a member of the Philipstown Recreation Commission, suggested that the town host a winter carnival at the park, which could also have an ice rink, a basic structure to “provide a nice, safe skating experience at a nominal fee. This is a perfect spot” for it, he said. Likewise, a carnival in February would “generate some excitement” and assist the local business community, according to Conybear.
Fire department interaction
Earlier in the meeting, the Town Board got information on nine joint training exercises held between January and June of this year by the Garrison Volunteer Fire Company and the Continental Village Fire Department, sometimes joined by firefighters from elsewhere. The list was compiled by Michael Del Monte of the Garrison department, who stated that it “probably omits quite a few events” since it does not cover activities of the North Highlands Fire District/Department and the town’s new inter-departmental rope-rescue team; or, except for a session held at Cold Spring Fire Company No. 1, Cold Spring firefighter events. Moreover, Del Monte wrote, “all four fire companies hold regular training at least once a month and do vehicle checks and clean-up weekly, during which informal training often occurs.”
Town Board Member Nancy Montgomery cited the list as “part of their campaign to help the public become aware of all the great things they’re doing. It’s pretty amazing, the training they’re doing, and the amount of training they have to do. There will be more of this” information-oriented outreach, she added. Training events included one on ice rescues and another on fighting train fires, among other highlights.
“This was the result of the Graner study,” fellow Town Board Member John Van Tassel said. “I will say it.”
“I didn’t want to mention that,” Montgomery replied, with a sigh. Commissioned by the Town Board to get information on fire department operations and needs and recommend approaches going forward, the Graner study set off a bitter controversy in 2011 when it called for, among other things, consolidation of the four departments into one district.
Van Tassel also lauded Del Monte for taking on the task of compiling the training data.
Climate change and local waterways
The board also heard from Dianne K. Olsen, senior extension educator from the Cornell Cooperative Extension program, in regard to the Hudson River Estuary Flooding Project. “The way climate change is going, we’re only going to have more flooding and stream damage,” she warned. The 100-year storm now comes about every three years and in addition “in heavier downpours, we’re having more than we’ve ever had before” over the course of a few hours, she explained. “Snake Hill Road was fine for so many years, but if there’s too much water, there’s too much water.” In Philipstown, “we have two problems – a tidal river and streams like Foundry Brook” that overflow their banks, Olsen said. (Foundry Brook flooded part of the West Point Foundry Preserve in 2011, requiring remediation by owner Scenic Hudson.)
To try to deal with the various new challenges, Cornell has teamed up with the State of New York and State University of New York in data-gathering and education, including forums for town highway superintendents, Olsen said. Highway officials tell Cornell that in the past they knew how to deal with storm-related problems, but with the ferocity and amounts of water they must deal with, they now confide that “‘we don’t know what to do,’” she said. She alerted the board to upcoming education workshops on the topic, including one scheduled for July 17 in East Fishkill.
Shea pointed out the Philipstown Highway Superintendent has participated in training at Cornell for some time and that the environmental by-product of climate change “was one of the driving issues behind instigating new zoning in the town. I feel, by and large, that we’re ahead of much of the surrounding area in terms of storm protection,” he said.
Another expert, Linda Bull, the New York State Archives regional advisory officer, discussed record management for municipalities like Philipstown. Bull remarked favorably on the work undertaken by Philipstown Town Clerk Tina Merando. “I think what’s been done is herculean,” she said. Among aspects of records management to confront, in any town, she cited redundancy of records, which can occur when a municipality has offices in more than one building, such as with an outlying highway garage or recreation department, and each maintains its own copies of records already stored at the town hall.