Niskayuna Town Board discusses improvements for River Road Park

Bond for improvements considered
Water covers much of the infield at one of the softball fields at River Road Park in Niskayuna.
Water covers much of the infield at one of the softball fields at River Road Park in Niskayuna.

The Niskayuna Town Board is expected to soon consider a resolution to bond $300,000 for town park improvements — an amount that would include $200,000 for improvements at River Road Park.

The board met in a rare early morning session on Tuesday — a make-up date for the agenda meeting cancelled Feb. 12 because of snowy weather — and received a detailed list of possible upgrades for River Road.

The plan for the park was discussed, and challenged, during the board’s January meeting. Council personnel said they needed more information about the improvements before they voted on the bond resolution.

“I don’t ever see an advantage going into something blind,” said Councilman John Della Ratta, just before the board voted unanimously to table the resolution in January. “We don’t know what the money is for; we don’t know what the plan is for.”

More information about River Road was provided Tuesday. Assistant Planner Jeffrey Twitty presented a slide show that detailed jobs and costs.

Members of the Niskayuna Girls Softball League especially will benefit from any work that improves playing conditions on their three home fields at River Road.

“There are a number of deficiencies, especially with the softball fields, they have major drainage issues,” Twitty said.

Dave Apkarian, president of the softball league, said field conditions are so bad that some Niskayuna girls have left the local program to play in other communities.

Rain is always a problem on the three fields used by the league, Apkarian said. Officials estimate between 30 and 40 percent of scheduled games must be canceled.

“They don’t drain,” Apkarian said. “Field 3, any kind of rain and it’s unplayable for weeks. Everything drains into Field 3. We try to use pumps to get the field pumped off, it’s a struggle.

“Essentially, we really have two good fields,” Apkarian added. “That was fine when we had one or two teams, but now with nine travel teams and 12 rec [recreation] teams, our schedule has become a juggling match.”

Apkarian said the league’s recent rapid growth means 150 girls will be part of this year’s program.

The town has already secured some financial assistance for improvements in “Phase 1,” scheduled for 2020. A $250,000 grant obtained in 2018 by Assemblyman Phillip Steck, D-Colonie, would be used to upgrade Fields 1 and 2 at a total cost of $184,250.

The remaining $65,750 of Steck funding would be used to build a new pavilion on top of the park hill overlooking the River Road fields.

If the town approves bonding, $200,000 of town money would be used to reconfigure Field 3 and correct drainage problems; install lights on Field 1; build new restrooms and install a water source and water spigots.

Niskayuna Softball is also contributing. Apkarian said $80,000 in fundraising — the league is hoping to reach $100,000 — will pay for new field grooming equipment, a concession stand, a mower and miscellaneous field equipment.

Town residents who visit River Road Park without bats and gloves will also benefit. With lights on Field 1, the park can keep later hours. The improvements are also expected to attract people for picnics, parties and other events.

Other projects are planned for the future. Lighting for Fields 2 and 3, upgrades to parking lots and park hiking trails that connect the park to nearby schools are in the works for 2021-2022. Work on little-used Field 4 would begin in 2023.

Lisa Weber, chairwoman of the town’s Community Programs Committee, had questions about the proposed new pavilion at River Road. She said parking near the top of the River Road hill is limited.

“I’d like to see the parking plan of how you’d expand parking,” Weber said. “I’m not sure that’s a good long-term solution at the top of the park where there’s not parking. Perhaps making the pavilion that’s already there, renovating that one, might be an alternative.”

Weber also asked about the concession stand; Apkarian said a room inside the existing pavilion might be an option.

“We haven’t been able to get in there and really look to see what’s there as far as power and options,” Apkarian said, “but if we could use that room, that would save everyone a lot of grief and a lot of money versus building a new concession stand.”

Syed said $100,000 of the bond money total would be used for improvements at other parks. She said the board potentially could vote on the bond resolution at its next meeting scheduled for Feb. 26.

Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]




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