CLIFTON PARK – Tree clearing is expected to start this week in the development of Clifton Park’s Town Center Park, which is slated to open by Labor Day, officials announced Monday.
The construction timeline marks one of the final steps toward what has been a lengthy and involved process to turn the 37-acre greenspace – between Moe Road and Maxwell Drive Extension, and just north of Shenendehowa Central School District property – into a centrally located park with trails, an open grass area and 50 parking spaces. If not for public input, the greenspace might not be a park at all, officials said.
“This park has had overwhelming public involvement and public support–probably more than any other initiative that I can remember in my 22-plus years in office,” said Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett.
Clifton Park purchased the land for $1.1 million after voters in an April 2017 referendum rejected the school district’s plans to sell the land to a private developer by a 2-to-1 margin— 5,442 to 2,323. That vote followed a December 2016 campaign by concerned citizens to collect more than 7,000 signatures, which was almost 2,000 more than what was needed to force a referendum on the sale as provided for in state law.
In a 2,723-to-535 vote in December of 2017, residents overwhelmingly approved the $1.1 million deal to have the town buy the parcel and preserve it as a public park.
The $2,074,469 project, which will be completed by Troy-based DelSignore Black Top Paving, is part of a comprehensive plan the town created more than a decade ago to develop the Exit 9 area.
“We need to diversify our economy, but we also need to continue to diversify our community with a balance of development,” Barrett said. “Some might say [a park] isn’t the ‘highest and best use,’ but it sure is a crucial and important use for the residents of Clifton Park. It’s a wonderful accent to everything that you see here at Exit 9.”
As other recent development in the Exit 9 area, such as the recent approval of Chick-fil-A, has drawn conversations about overcrowding, Town Center Park can help offset those concerns while still being a boon to the economy, officials said.
“Why do tourists come to different areas? They come because they have beautiful park areas like this. And then they visit the restaurants, they visit the shopping areas,” said Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, who helped the town secure $250,000 in funding for the project from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. “We’ve got economic development happening here, but we also need the solace in places like this.”
Tedisco was at Monday’s press conference after announcing over the weekend that he was preparing to run in the state’s new 44th Senate District, setting up a potential primary campaign against Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon.
Town Center Park will feature a 0.7-mile paved, mixed-use trail from Moe Road to Maxwell Drive. The interior of the park will be “The Glade,” which is an open grass area, where the town eventually plans to host community events, Barrett said.
The plan for the park calls for lighting, however, the roughly 50 lights needed are unlikely to be available this year as a result of supply chain delays, according to the town supervisor.
“We’re going to get the lights in as quickly as possible,” Barrett said.
Town Center Park will be just one of the latest green spaces added to the town, which is home to roughly 50 parks, ranging from small pocket parks to the more than 700-acre Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve, Barrett said.
Bill Casey, former president of Shenendehowa’s Board of Education, said he’s glad the school district ultimately sold the 37-acre parcel to the town.
“I’ve got 8-year-old and 10-year-old grandsons who live around here, and for their future, this is the highest and best use,” Casey said. “If we lost [the land] in commercial development, it would be lost forever. And it’s now been saved forever.”
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.