Striking compass rose at Highland Landing Park nears completion

Matt Smith, president of the Highland Landing Park Association,  at the riverside site. (Lauren Thomas | New Paltz Times)

Matt Smith, president of the Highland Landing Park Association, at the riverside site. (Lauren Thomas | New Paltz Times)

Bob Shepard Highland Landing Park measures just 1.7 acres in size. That may be a modest scale for a waterfront refuge, but the park, created in 2009 by volunteers without any town funding, manages to fit in a place to fish, a number of picnic tables and a dock from which to launch boats and kayaks.

Other visitors make their way down the winding road leading to the spot to just sit and listen to the water lap against the shore against the scenic backdrop of forested bluffs along the riverbanks and a view of Walkway Over the Hudson.

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Now Highland Landing Park is getting a signature motif in the form of a 30-foot-diameter compass rose design made of colored concrete. It weighs 29 tons. When complete, the striking medallion will be surrounded by landscaping and benches. It lies near the edge of the river beneath an already installed 54-foot-high nautical-style crossarm flagpole donated by the Highland Rotary Club in memory of Leo Rizzo.

The compass rose, sometimes called a windrose, represents an old-fashioned ship’s compass. The design was often found on steering helms, maps or nautical charts, depicting the orientation of the cardinal directions and their intermediate points. “Our volunteer architect, Dave Toder of Bolder Architecture, drew up the plans,” said Matt Smith, president of the Highland Landing Park Association, which created and manages the site. “Rick Brooks of Brooks and Brooks Surveyors, also a volunteer, figured out exactly where magnetic North and True North were, so the rose would be accurate.”

Close-up view of the 30-foot-diameter compass rose being created at Highland Landing Park (Sharyn Flanagan | New Paltz Times)

Close-up view of the 30-foot-diameter compass rose being created at Highland Landing Park (Sharyn Flanagan | New Paltz Times)

The graphic design is rendered in vivid blue and red concrete embedded into an ivory concrete background. The shapes of the form are outlined with steel, which is also used to create the lettering.

“Volunteers Lenny Auchmoody and Henry (Hank) Behr jumped in and drove this and several other park projects to completion this season,” said Smith. “They did much of the work themselves, and rounded up many other volunteers to help. They also installed the nautical-style flagpole and made and installed the new kayak launch steps at the North Point.” The concrete for these projects was supplied at cost by Custom Concrete.

In addition to providing an attractive focus for the park, the compass rose will be useful as a teaching aid for students learning about geography, science, history, math and navigation, Smith added.

Being reliant upon donations and grants for new construction, Highland Landing Park is still in development in its seventh year now, with further improvements and additions planned for the coming years. The idea for a compass rose feature was in the planning stages for some time, but funding had to go first for practical items like picnic benches and repairing the bundle of pilings at the dock that fell over in 2014 and had to be re-embedded in the river bottom. But when Highland resident Karen De Gaeta heard about the proposed compass rose project, she volunteered to finance its construction with a donation in memory of her father, Joseph L. De Gaeta.

Future plans for the park include an open-air pavilion large enough to hold an entire classroom of students coming to use the planned environmental education center. All projects are contingent upon fundraising and grants.

The annual potluck dinner and meeting — free and fun; just bring a dish to share — will be held at the park Saturday, October 1 at 5 p.m. Jeff Walker’s Orchestra will provide music for dancing under the big tent.

Access to Highland Landing Park is via River Road, the eastward extension of Vineyard Avenue in Highland, or Mile Hill Road, which branches off Haviland Road just east of Route 9W. For information, visit www.highlandlandingpark.org.

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