At nearly every Clifton Park Town Board meeting there is discussion about improvements to one of the town’s many parks.
Some of the parks are small, pocket parks, like Clifton Gardens Park off Clifton Park Center Road. The board recently approved borrowing up to $90,000 so that a basketball court and two tennis courts at the park could be renovated and fencing replaced.
Others park projects are large-scale, such as the new Garnsey Park being planned on 151 acres on Route 146 between Wing and Waite roads in the western, Rexford, area of the town.
The town is expected to seek bids later this year for the estimated $1.5 million first phase of this “passive” park that will eventually include nature trails, a pond, two picnic pavilions and possibly an education center.
Town residents made it clear during public information meetings that they didn’t want more soccer fields at the new park.
Garnsey Park is named in honor of Nathan Garnsey, one of the town’s founding fathers, who purchased the land in 1783. The new park, which is near some of Rexford’s oldest active working farms, was open to cross-country skiing this winter on some old trails.
Town Supervisor Philip Barrett said town officials learned from a survey conducted last year, when a town recreation master plan was being developed, that a significant number of residents don’t know some of the newer town parks and preserves even exist.
“What we now realize is that not all town residents know about these wonderful areas,” Barrett said. The recreation master plan is expected to recommend better signage for the town parks and preserves and more information about them on the town Web site (www.cliftonpark.org).
For example, Barrett said many residents don’t realize the town has developed a canoe and kayak landing and a six-acre park along the Mohawk River called Mohawk Landing, not far from the Riverview Orchards.
A relatively new park area, the Dwaas Kill Nature Preserve off Kinns Road, is another area not well known. The Vischer Ferry Preserve on the Mohawk is another excellent hiking area not heavily used, he said. “You can get lost in there.”
The town has 14 park districts. Each of these is a special taxation district in which just a specified number of town residents living in the vicinity pay for the maintenance and improvements.
The larger parks, such as the sprawling Clifton Common on Vischer Ferry Road, is not a special park district. This park is owned and funded by the town and includes numerous soccer, baseball and softball fields as well as two indoor ice rinks.
An example of a special park district is the Stony Creek Town Park off Moe Road. At a meeting in February, the board approved plans so that a mile-long nature trail, some small bridges and a parking area can be put out for bid.
The entire looping trail plan on about 12 acres, estimated to cost $200,000, has been in the planning stages since early 2008.
Brian Easton, chairman of the Stony Creek Park District No. 1, said he hopes that some work on the new trail can be started this construction season.
The town buildings and grounds department does some work on the special park districts, while other work is bid out to private contractors. This allows the town to maintain a smaller buildings and grounds staff.
Barrett said some of the town’s 14 park districts were created decades ago.
“If that area wanted a park, they should pay for it,” Barrett said about the thinking back in the 1970s and 1980s.
“The good thing is that the park districts allow for local decision making. They get people involved in what’s going on directly in their neighborhoods,” Barrett said. “The local decision making also generates a lot of volunteer activity. A lot of people enjoy the fact that they can be part of a leadership team that makes decision for their park.”
Myla Kramer, parks and recreation director, said summer programs are conducted at four of the town parks.
For example, the town’s half-day summer program is conducted at Collins Park on Moe Road near Route 146.
Programs include an adventure challenge course, a volleyball camp and a comic book project in the park pavilion.
A half-day camp is also held at the Locust Lane pool and playground. At Clifton Commons a full-day summer program is conducted along with two soccer camps, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, field hockey and cheerleading camps.
The half-day camps cost residents $5 per day, and the full-day camps cost $85 per week.
Summer programs are also conducted at Veterans Memorial Park off Macelroy Road for preschool children between the ages of 2 and 5 years old. The program is called the Tiny Hands Summer Club, and parents accompany their child, Kramer said.
Barrett said the public hearings as part of the town recreation master plan process has been a good exercise.
“What we really tried to do is look at areas we can improve upon,” Barrett said. “Getting the public input is invaluable.”