Youths participating in Gardiner’s Summer Recreation Program this year are having to make do without the amenity of the picnic pavilion in Majestic Park. Deemed beyond repair this spring by the town’s code enforcement officer, Andy Lewis, the deteriorated structure was recently demolished and the site cleared, utilizing mostly volunteer labor. Several bids for a replacement pavilion have been received in response to a request for proposals issued last month, but work on the new building is not expected to commence until September or October, according to Town Supervisor Marybeth Majestic. She told the Town Board that she was seeking assistance on the project from Watchtower Farms, a large landholder with a religious exemption from paying property taxes, which often supplies volunteer labor for municipal building projects as a courtesy to the town.
As the failure of the old pavilion was not anticipated during the crafting of Gardiner’s 2018 town budget, emergency funding can be withdrawn from the town’s Tax Stabilization Fund to cover the remaining costs of the replacement project, according to the supervisor. Meanwhile, members of the Parks & Recreation Commission have been putting their heads together to formulate a three-year plan intended to help the Town Board plan ahead not only for the future costs of facilities and programs, but also to maximize the value of Gardiner’s municipal parks to residents.
Commissioner Michele Tomasicchio’s presentation of the group’s goals and draft plan to the Town Board this month was received with guarded enthusiasm. Supervisor Majestic termed it “very ambitious.” Councilman Warren Wiegand, who has been urging all of Gardiner’s municipal departments to engage in similar multi-year planning, praised it as “a real plan, very disciplined.” But he also encouraged the Parks & Rec commissioners to put estimated pricetags on all their proposals and research possible structures for doing their own fundraising, including the possibility of setting up an independent not-for-profit entity. “This is not going to happen with taxpayers’ money,” Wiegand cautioned.
Tomasicchio said that the commission was drafting a letter of intent to set up a fund with the New Paltz Community Foundation that would enable Gardinerites to make tax-deductible donations in support of Parks & Rec projects. Wiegand called that a “home-run idea,” but Majestic noted that more information was necessary before the town could commit to such an arrangement with the NPCF.
Revitalization of Majestic Park was tops on the commission’s list of key goals, with work expected to get underway by the end of June on rehabilitation of the pole barn structure. Immediate improvements include installation of stall dividers in the bathrooms, addition of handicapped bathroom facilities, an ultraviolet water filtration system and new kitchen appliances. This summer’s goals also include the design phase for a new system of hiking and biking trails for 86 acres of town-owned property surrounding the Gardiner Transfer Station and landfill. Organizers hope to create a work committee and begin actual trail construction by the end of this year, according to Tomasicchio. Councilman Mike Reynolds observed that local mountain biking organizations were “eager to help with the trails.”
Winterizing the pole barn is on the agenda for 2019, which Tomasicchio said would make the building rentable year-round as a site for programs and classes. “That should put Recreation in the black,” she predicted. Other rehabilitation work projected for next year includes playground expansion to include tetherball; repair and possible expansion of the popular skate park; repair of the ballfields, which Tomasicchio called “unusable” at present; the addition of picnic tables; and a proposal by Andie Psilopoulos to install a ga-ga ball pit as her Girl Scout Silver Award project.
Fundraising activities specifically geared toward channeling public support for Parks & Rec projects are also on the drawing board for the next three years, Tomasicchio said. The commission will utilize social media, including creating a Facebook page, as well as local print publications such as the Gardiner Gazette and the New Paltz Times to communicate with residents about activities as they develop.