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Clifton Park's 37-acre park to be accessible, natural

Clifton Park's 37-acre park to be accessible, natural

Draft plan follows a year of gaining public input
Clifton Park's 37-acre park to be accessible, natural
William Casey, former president of the Shenendehowa school board, discusses a plan to sell land to the town in 2017.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

CLIFTON PARK -- The latest draft plan for a new 37-acre public park in Clifton Park has an emphasis on pedestrian accessibility, keeping the land naturally forested, and incorporating educational opportunities about the nature of the land.

Details of the plan were officially unveiled to the public at a town-wide workshop last week. The 37 acres of mostly forested land were purchased from the Shenendehowa Central School District.

The park planning process has been an extensive one, stretching over a year and incorporating various meetings and information sessions to spread public awareness about the project. 

There were also workshops and community-oriented events held to develop the park's master plan, including multiple tours of the property during which the public was able to join the Town Center Park Planning Committee to explore the site. A survey was also conducted.

Saratoga Springs-based companies Behan Planning and Elan Design helped guide the park planning process. 

At last week's meeting, planners announced that there had been 245 survey respondents, and a large majority of people surveyed were most concerned with keeping the land as close to its natural state as possible.

“Based on public input, there is broad consensus on keeping a large portion of the park property very natural in character. A lesser percentage can be set aside for low to moderately intensive programming and design,” states the draft plan.

According to the plan, a natural park includes keeping existing trees in place and adding new and unpaved trails in various sections of the park.

Other issues looked at included how much parking space, if any, should be installed, and whether other amenities, such as picnic areas, should be created.

According to responses from both planning workshops and the online survey, over 95 percent of people prefer onsite parking and 93 percent would like to see some sort of picnic area. 

Almost 100 percent of respondents also called for restrooms.

The draft plan also addresses which areas of the large property are suited for certain amenities.

Planners outlined these priorities: creating a safe and attractive pedestrian route between Shenendehowa High School and the town center; enabling future pedestrian connections to nearby Collins Park, Shatekon and Arongen elementary schools and the Clifton Park Halfmoon Public Library; maintaining a tree buffer around the park to the greatest extent possible to mitigate noise and light from the surrounding area; and creating a hierarchy of trails, including some wider trails to serve as community gathering spaces, smaller multi-use paths, walking trails and nature trails, with handicapped accessibility where feasible.

Parking, according to the draft, would be provided at both ends of the park, with room to expand if demand increases. Restrooms would be located at each end of the park for maximum accessibility and visibility, and a central gathering area for the community would be placed in the center.

As part of the town’s goal to make the park a resource for other community organizations as well, an outdoor classroom and interactive natural exhibits will included for both the library and school district to utilize.

According to the Park Planning Committee, final adjustments will be made to the plan and a final draft, which will include the cost of the total project and a timeline, will be presented in the fall.

The draft plan for the park can be viewed on the town’s website at www.cliftonpark.org.

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