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Few weigh in on Wassaic Park, vice chair calls out HVN

AMENIA — Looking to introduce change in the hamlet of Wassaic to benefit the local community, the Amenia Recreation Commission (ARC) invited Wassaic residents to its meeting on Thursday, June 9, to share their thoughts on Wassaic Park. A news brief was even printed in last week’s Millerton News.

The 7 p.m. meeting was at Town Hall auditorium; of the five ARC members, only two  attended, as did five community members.

To begin, ARC Vice Chairman Paul Winters explained the Wassaic Arts Foundation (WAF) owns land near Gridley Church in Wassaic, across the street from The Wassaic Project’s Maxon Mills seven-story former grain elevator at 37 Furnace Bank Road.

Wassaic Park, also known as Borden Park, is located behind the old Borden Condensed Milk Factory.

During its fact-finding survey, Winters said the ARC learned many parents are concerned about sending their children to Wassaic Park, as it’s secluded and known as a location for illicit activities.

As a solution, he explained the WAF offered to give the hamlet the land near Gridley Church for $1 a year.

Asked later why the WAF would give up land for so little money, Winters replied, “They would like to see some change in the town.”

The idea, Winters explained last Thursday, is to move the Wassaic playground out of the center of the hamlet and onto the land near the church. The ARC hoped to propose the concept at the Town Board’s meeting on Thursday, June 16. He said that’s why the ARC wanted input from Wassaic residents at its meeting on the 9th.

Amenia has worked with the architectural firm, Parkitects. Town Supervisor Victoria Perotti said one thing that was recommended for Wassaic Park was creating an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant path to the stream to access fishing.

Regarding public parking, Winters said since Amenia will likely relocated its Town Garage, it believes the current garage location on Borden Lane would be a great place to create parking. Winters added the ARC is seeking ways to create parking to help make Wassaic Park more accessible.

Inviting residents to share their thoughts, Winters said, “We need to know what the community would like to see… We’ve never had a solid idea… of exactly what the community would want.”

So far, Winters said a lot of people have shown interest in having a dog park. Perotti asked if the ARC had seen the August 2020 presentation by Town Board members Damian Gutierrez and Vicki Doyle, in which they solicited ideas from the public about what they want at Wassaic Park. Perotti added she would send the commission information from Parkitect, which provided the town the playground equipment for Wassaic Park.

One resident spoke, noting her children love fishing; she suggested having fishing available at Wassaic Park.

Since Beekman Park on Route 343 in Amenia is dedicated to softball and baseball, Winters asked how important it is for the ARC to “continue to create baseball at Wassaic because the kids can actually get a bicycle, ride the Rail Trail and come into town and play baseball if they want to.”

He added the commission believes there’s enough space at the 12-acre Wassaic Park for a multi-use park where the land could be opened up for fishing, a dog park, a small baseball field that could also be used for soccer and a volleyball and/or a basketball court.

According to Winters, “some of that land is utilized for the town Highway Garage… only a small section is utilized as a park, with large area still wooded.”

The multi-use are could all be possible, he said, if the playground is moved to the center of the hamlet near the chapel.

“I would’ve hoped there’d be more than the three that showed up,” said Winters when later asked how he felt the meeting went. “It’s all about showing up.”

He added the ARC will be asking the Town Board to enlarge the commission so it has a better chance of achieving a quorum at its meetings, since so few members tend to attend. Winters added the commission plans to present a plan the Town Board can act upon within the next six months to a year for Wassaic Park.

Residents hoping to share their thoughts about Wassaic Park may contact the commission at pwinters@ameniany.gov.

Winters added there will be a special Recreation Commission meeting this Thursday, June 23, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall “to discuss the fact that the Recreation Department in Amenia was originally established as a Commission rather than a Committee and what that means.”

Plus, said Winters, “other important items will be voted on, encouraging those interested in attending so “the community can receive proper information rather than what appeared this week in the Hudson Valley News.

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