Oasis by the river: Highland Landing Park

Matt Smith shows off the new picnic tables and sycamore trees at Highland Landing Park. The seven new picnic tables are handicapped accessible and soon charcoal grills will be installed nearby. The next annual meeting of the Highland Landing Park Association is open to the public and will be held at the park on Saturday, August 8 from 5 to 7 p.m. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Matt Smith shows off the new picnic tables and sycamore trees at Highland Landing Park. The seven new picnic tables are handicapped accessible and soon charcoal grills will be installed nearby. The next annual meeting of the Highland Landing Park Association is open to the public and will be held at the park on Saturday, August 8 from 5 to 7 p.m. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

The Bob Shepard Highland Landing Park at the edge of the Hudson River in the Town of Lloyd offers quite a lot to do on just 1.7 acres: boat launching and docking, kayaking, fishing, picnicking or just enjoyment of a breeze off the water with a scenic view of forested bluffs along the riverbanks and Walkway Over the Hudson crossing the river.

Visitors to the waterfront park this summer will find that the dedicated volunteers who do all the work there have been busy. The parking lot has been blacktopped and freshly striped, and the gravel road to the boat launch has been paved. There is also new paving alongside River Road running the length of the park, where cars with boat trailers now have a smooth parking surface. And a large American flag will soon fly on a tall, nautical-style cross arm flagpole donated by the Highland Rotary Club, equipped to sport three flags in all on its cross mast.

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Four handicapped-accessible picnic tables have been installed on the lawn, with another four scheduled for installation over the next few weeks. The tables are generously sized with both ends unencumbered so that a wheelchair fits comfortably at either or both ends of the table. A level surface for the chairs is provided by the flat cement slab that each table sits on. The tables have galvanized steel frames and recycled plastic lumber tops that are impermeable to the weather. In fact, according to Matt Smith, president of the Highland Landing Park Association that manages and develops the site, the tables came with a 50-year environmental warranty.

The installation of some charcoal grills like those found at state parks is anticipated for a future date, “and if they’re well received,” says Smith, “we’ll get more.”

 

Next on the horizon

Highland Landing Park officially opened to the public in 2009. Being a relatively new park and reliant upon donations and grants for new construction, it’s still really in the process of development, with further improvements and additions planned for the coming years.

Some of those plans will be revealed on Saturday, August 8 from 5 to 7 p.m. at a potluck dinner held at the park, sponsored by the Highland Landing Park Association. The group will hold a brief business meeting to elect new trustees and then it’ll be on to the dinner, which everyone in the community is invited to attend. “Everyone is welcome,” said Smith. “We’ll furnish the drinks, the plates and cutlery, and they just have to bring a dish to share. Everyone tends to bring their favorite dish or the most popular thing they make to a potluck, so we wind up with some pretty good stuff.” The event will be held rain or shine; a large tent and chairs will be set up.

Attendees will see pictures of the “compass rose” to be created this summer, which promises to be a unique feature at the waterfront park. A compass rose is a figure on a steering helm, map or nautical chart that displays the orientation of the cardinal directions and their intermediate points. In addition to being appropriate to a riverfront setting, a compass rose is a striking graphic design. The compass rose “disc” embedded into the concrete at Highland Landing Park will be huge, some 30 feet in diameter, made of brightly colored concrete with the lines of the design outlined with aluminum or steel. It will be eight inches thick, with purposefully vivid coloring of red, ivory and blue to really stand out when seen from above, says Smith, visible from the Walkway Over the Hudson. Four benches will be placed around its perimeter. It will be somewhat interactive with people able to walk on it and it will be a teaching tool for students, says Smith. “It’s going to be spectacular.”

The idea for the compass rose feature has been in the planning stages for some time now, according to Donna Deeprose, vice president of development for the Highland Landing Park Association, but the group hadn’t yet gone as far as seeking a grant for it. But when Highland resident Karen De Gaeta heard about the proposed compass rose project, De Gaeta volunteered to finance its construction with a donation in memory of her father, Joseph L. De Gaeta.

Also on the horizon at the park is the construction of an open-air pavilion that’ll be large enough to hold an entire classroom of students that come to use the environmental education center there (once it’s fully up and running). Smith says a site plan will be available at the potluck dinner event to visualize the pavilion’s size and location. The timeline for its completion is subject to grant funding, which is only awarded after a project is already constructed and paid for.

The association received a $911,904 grant from the state Local Waterfront Revitalization Program to construct the park’s boat ramps, docks and bulkhead, but have yet to receive the money from the state. When they do, they’ll repay the town (which floated a bond to pay for the projects), but Smith says they’d rather not ask the town for any more money for other projects until they’re able to pay back that initial funding with the grant.

“And everything always takes longer than you think it will,” he says.

 

For more information, visit www.highlandlandingpark.org.

 

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