Steinmetz Park on Schenectady’s North Side is a special place, second only to Central Park in size and no less pretty. But in recent years it has been overlooked and underused. That may be about to change thanks to a facelift it has just gotten with a $600,000 state grant.
The park, which contains a good-sized pond with a handsome stone wall around it, walking paths, small playground, bathhouse, basketball and tennis courts, was once full of people and activity. But it became less so as industry declined and the population shrank — and much less so after swimming in the pond, a favorite pastime, was stopped by the city after a drowning in 1982.
At the same time, like other parks in the city, Steinmetz began to get less maintenance as the city’s budget problems forced it to keep reducing its once-large parks staff. Vandalism also increased. The place might have gone completely to seed if not for repair and cleanup efforts by volunteers and city workers in the mid-1990s and again in 2005. That same year the city paid for a park master plan, which called for the current improvements, including a new pavilion and a renovated bathhouse with a working kitchen, bathrooms and meeting room.
The key now is getting people to use the park with programs and events (and perhaps a restoration of swimming at some point in the future). Not only will that show the city and state that the investment was worth it, it will bring more volunteers — who, given the city’s continuing budget struggles, will be needed to help maintain the park. It will also discourage vandalism, because vandals tend to target places where no one goes and no one cares.
Steinmetz (named after the General Electric pioneer who, as chairman of the parks and city planning commission, started the city’s excellent park system) has always been a place worth caring about. Now it’s also a place worth going to again.