Can the community put the pieces together?
By Michael Turton
It may strike some people as odd, but this winter is the best time to consider the future of Cold Spring’s riverfront. In fact, if the many pieces of the riverfront puzzle are not discussed, preferably at a moderated community forum, a great opportunity may drift away.
- The state departments of Environmental Conservation and Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation are collaborating to make Dockside Park a demonstration site for state-of-the-art shoreline protection, a major plus given the rise in sea levels expected from climate change.
- The village has taken over management of Dockside Park from the state and can now generate revenue and add modest facilities at what is now an undeveloped site.
- The Recreation Commission and Village Board are revamping the application process for events held at Dockside.
- One potential route of the proposed Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail passes through Dockside.
- The Cold Spring Boat Cub, located on village-owned property, is in discussions with the village about renewing its lease, which expires in 2023. The club has been without a clubhouse since 2015, when it was razed as part of the remediation of toxic coal tar. The club’s fewer than 100 full members have to this point been reluctant to commit to the cost of rebuilding. Club leaders have said they want a new building or, at the very least, restrooms.
- The 2012 Comprehensive Plan was adopted after a multi-year volunteer effort that began with a survey of residents about their visions for the village. While the plan makes several recommendations about the riverfront, it has largely sat on a shelf.
- Longtime residents still mourn the loss of Dockside, the restaurant and de facto community center that hosted countless weddings, luncheons, graduation parties and family gatherings along with live music and outdoor dining in a magnificent setting.
- Bandstand or gazebo? Whatever you call the Main Street landmark, it has hosted many concerts over the years. But it has problems. Musicians hate the acoustics and staring into the bright, setting sun. Pillars block sight lines. And on hot days, the dock’s bricks bake like an oven. The bandstand is an appealing symbol, rooted in village history and with a magical feel, especially at Christmas. But as a bandstand, it fails.
For the riverfront puzzle to be put together, many voices working toward a consensus will yield better results than individual opinions, regardless of how loudly they are expressed.
Here are a few ideas; some are new, others are not.
- Reignite interest in the riverfront by asking residents if Dockside Park should be renamed. Residents may be passionate about keeping that name or they may favor a name that reflects the larger history, culture and geography of the Hudson River and Cold Spring.
- Consider adding a picnic pavilion and an acoustically designed, appropriately sized performance stage at Dockside. There may even be a creative way to combine the two. The summer music series could make the stage, lawn and shade trees its home. The structures could also serve the Cold Spring Film Society’s summer series. Add seasonal food kiosk(s), with local restaurants having the first shot at operating them. A few panels interpreting Cold Spring’s history and the natural history of the Hudson River and Highlands are also worth thinking about.
- One of the comprehensive plan’s objectives is to “protect and enhance the benefit of the Boat Club for its members” and to “increase the benefit of this riverfront site for village residents.” Most residents have no reason to financially support a clubhouse used exclusively by Boat Club members. But would they contribute to a building that had a second-floor, revenue-producing banquet room that could host many of the functions Dockside once did, with similar views of the river? Or how about a three-way partnership between the village, the Boat Club and a developer to include a ground-level commercial enterprise? Boat Club records show that 3,199 guests docked there in 2018, even with no amenities. How many more boaters would stop and spend money in Cold Spring if the club had inviting facilities?
The puzzle can’t be completed without a sea change in thinking by Boat Club members. The club has had its detractors, but not even the harshest critics suggest it should not exist. When the club was established in 1955, riverfront property was seen as having little value. Today, one real-estate broker puts the parcel’s worth at $900,000 and says that’s conservative. Does it make sense that such a valuable, village-owned asset benefits so few people? If the club can reinvent itself as an integral, community-oriented part of an invigorated riverfront, its members will benefit along with residents.
What piece would you add to this puzzle?