Bulldozers and other heavy equipment have started construction on the highly anticipated Halfmoon Family Park.
As the town continues to see its population growing, the park could rival those of its neighbor, Clifton Park, which has several centralized locations for active and passive recreation.
Halfmoon’s park will feature a clubhouse, youth pavilion, two picnic pavilions, amphitheater, bicycle and walking trails, playgrounds, two separate restroom facilities, roads and parking lots. The park will also include seven or eight baseball fields, which will be a big hit for teams displaced from Town Hall property while the new municipal center was being built.
Construction is scheduled for 18 months.
News of the work beginning at the park came as a welcome surprise to a handful of teenagers bouncing basketballs on an aging court at the town’s sole public playground behind the new Town Hall. Nearby, red plastic climbing equipment went unused in the hot sun.
“I never heard about it, but it sounds good,” said Travis Martin, 14, of Halfmoon, shooting hoops with his friends. “This court here is really old and it’s hot. We’re kind of tired of hanging around in the same place all the time.”
Wooden boardwalks will cross some wetland areas for nature trails on the 55-acres of land behind the town’s highway garage.
The town park was originally part of a joint building project along with the new Town Hall, which opened last December. Work on the park was delayed for more than two years because significant artifacts were uncovered, including American Indian arrowheads and rock shavings dating back to 1800 B.C. The required archaeological studies added almost two years to the park construction, as well as requiring additional costs. The land also contain wetlands protected by federal laws that limit development.
The delays brought hefty hikes in the costs of the park project, but the Town Board voted to use surplus money so taxes wouldn’t have to be raised. In 2004, original estimates totaled $11.9 million for the joint project to build the Town Hall and family park. Town Supervisor Mindy Wormuth said that amount was bonded after a public hearing. In 2006, the spending plan was increased to $13 million, with the additional money to be drawn from the general fund surplus. In April 2008, the board voted to add up to $2 million to the budget, allowing them to draw up to $600,000 from the town recreation account, and up to $1.4 million from the surplus. At its May meeting, the board invited residents to comment on this decision, but no residents attended. Wormuth said money will be drawn from the accounts as needed, with efforts to minimize additional expenses.
Wormuth said the park project took root after a recreation survey in 2004 that showed families overwhelmingly sought more places to enjoy the outdoors.
“We’re all thrilled to see the work on the park finally begin,” Wormuth said. “Everyone kept saying ‘if’ it would happen, but we always said ‘when’ it happens.”
Wormuth said depending on construction schedules, some parts of the park may be opened next summer.
“It’s all a matter of safety, but we want people to be able to enjoy it as soon as possible,” Wormuth said.
More from The Daily Gazette: