It’s summer, so set aside casinos and other weighty topics: It’s time for the City Council to sincerely discuss swan boats and parking at the parks.
That meant it was a night of good news at Monday’s council committees meeting.
The city bought new paddle boats for Central Park, spending about $12,000 for three swan-shaped boats and three more basic models to replace an aging fleet it took out of service a couple of years ago.
The council also agreed, in committee, to allow parking next to Hillhurst Park, where parking has been banned since 2001.
On the more serious topic of whether to rebuild or repair the Ferry Street sewer pump station, the council decided to revisit the issue in two weeks. Council members want to know more about whether they can repair the building.
And then they went on to happier things.
The swan boats will be decorative, two-person paddle boats, costing $8 for a 30-minute rental and $12 for an hourlong trip around the lake at Central Park.
There will also be new four-person paddle boats, costing $6 and $8 respectively for half-hour and hour rentals.
The goal is to raise enough money to keep the boats well-maintained.
“We don’t want to get back to where we were a year ago, where we didn’t have any [boats],” said city official Jeremy Howard.
The boats were purchased through a grant intended to keep the Casino operating. The restaurant in Central Park has gone through many concessionaires, and at times no one has been willing to rent the facility and serve food for the summer.
“This adds to our plans to hopefully keep a concessionaire up and thriving,” Howard said.
Park visitors would rent the boats at the restaurant, which usually sells fast-food items, ice cream and other treats. In the past, when there was no concessionaire and the Casino didn’t open for the season, the public could rent boats at the parks office.
Council members are looking forward to the public’s reaction to the boats.
“I anticipate a lot of engagements happening on the swans,” said Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo.
Howard added that many wedding couples might pose in the Rose Garden for pictures and then rent a swan boat for pictures next to the lake’s fountain.
Regarding Hillhurst Park, the council decided to reverse a decision it made a decade ago, and agreed in committee to restore parking along Campbell Avenue next to the park.
Councilman Ed Kosiur championed the change, saying he didn’t want families to continue parking on the opposite side of the street, where parking has always been legal.
They have to cross the busy road to get to the park. There is a crosswalk, but he said it would be safer to skip the street crossing altogether.
Signal Control Supervisor John Coluccio said the change could create about 13 spaces.
He added that the council banned parking there for similar reasons — children’s safety.
“My recollection is, there were some concerns with children running in between parked cars,” he said.
Given that, he advised restricting parking for 100 feet around the park entrance and the crosswalk.
He said the additional spaces could also discourage visitors from illegally taking the handicapped spaces in the park itself. That has been an ongoing issue.
Council members were enthusiastic about the change. They can unilaterally end the parking ban at next Monday’s meeting. The new boat rental fees must go through a public hearing first, which will be held July 14.