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City approves Parks Renewal Master Plan

Jan. 20—PLATTSBURGH — The City of Plattsburgh approved a Parks Renewal Master Plan Thursday that will serve as its future guide to revitalizing the city's five parks.

In the plan, several improvements were proposed for South Acres, South Platt Street, US Oval, Peter S. Blumette and Melissa L. Penfield Parks that the city could look to take action on immediately or in the next five to 10 years.

The plan was put together by Barton and Loguidice following an extensive public outreach campaign that included gathering community feedback both in-person and online over the past two years.

IMPROVEMENTS

Some identified improvements for the five parks included upgrading playground equipment to make it more safe and inclusive; enhancing lighting and athletic courts/fields; upgrading and repairing bathrooms; and adding more shaded, seating areas and wheelchair/stroller accessible, paved walking paths.

Other, more visionary improvements were proposed in the conceptual plans as well; one of which being a fishing pier for South Platt Street Park that Councilor Jeff Moore (D-Ward 6) felt was too "fanciful."

"I question some of the quality of it (the plan)," Moore said. "A big fishing pier in a shallow river like we have is ridiculous. I mean, whoever came up with that ..."

Mayor Chris Rosenquest said despite how unrealistic some of the plans may be, they can still provide the city with valuable insight into what the public wants to see for the park.

"You do look at what is the most ideal use of this space, and then you do have to take a step back some time and say you know what, it doesn't make sense to put a fishing pier in here, but if the intention is to get more access to the waterfront, there is a path in between that might look like walking piers and walking trails that get us closer to the waterfront."

Moore also estimated that the city would only be able to implement about 10% of what was proposed.

$22 MILLION PRICETAG

In December of 2022, the city allocated $2.6 million in funding for the Parks Renewal Project through a $1 million bond and about $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

As it stands, if every single improvement in the master plan were to be implemented, the total cost would be over $22 million.

"Realistically, we cannot come anywhere near the scope of what these plans are," Moore said.

"I think we need to focus a little more closer to what we can really do. I mean, it's great to dream ... and I'm not saying we shouldn't do what we're doing — it's a great idea — but we are kind of getting ahead of ourselves by dreaming this big dream and realistically, we're somewhere else. How much do we want to spend on this big grand plan that we can only finance a very small piece of?"

MORE OF A 'STRATEGY'

Community Development Director and current Community Engagement Coordinator Courtney Meisenheimer told Moore that she views a plan like this as more of a "strategy."

"And it dictates where we can go from here. and so I think the intention of this is that it certainly was never going to be able to be implemented all in one fell swoop, but that in order to look at our parks and our recreation and our community holistically, we have to have that really high-level picture of where do we see this park ... in 10 years," she said.

"And now, as a department, it's good for me to have so I can say 'OK, what's the first phase that we need to start working on? How do we coordinate the funding, the grants, the community to support just this first phase, and now once we accomplish that, what's the next phase?'"

She said this higher level plan will also allow for more efficient planning and advocating for additional funding moving forward.

"I recognize that it's frustrating to have big plans made and then for them to sit on tables too and not get implemented, but they're also valuable tools when we go to funding agencies and state agencies to say, 'look, we have these shovel ready projects; we've already conducted the community engagement process for this; people are behind this; we have councilors who agree with this.' That's the kind of work that state agencies and funding agencies want to see happen before they even give us money," Meisenheimer said.

"They want to know that things have been vetted, and that we're not just kind of pulling projects out of the air. and so it's that high level thing, and I think there's a balance in terms of how much do you spend on the plan vs. how much do you implement it."

OTHER CONCERNS

Other councilors took issue with other areas of the master plan.

Councilor Elizabeth Gibbs (D-Ward 3) did not agree with the expenses paid for design fees up to this point.

"We've spent about $400,000 on these design fees and we could have bought playground equipment with that money."

She also didn't understand why the city paid Barton and Loguidice for this plan and Architectural & Engineering Design Associates, P.C. (AEDA) for other design plans.

Meisenheimer explained that Barton and Loguidice was paid to create a "more general concept plan that involves site surveying, public engagement, and writing the Master Plan."

"Then in order to get us to be able to put projects to work and put shovels into the ground, we brought on AEDA to actually do the more detailed engineering design concept work," she said.

"...And so now AEDA has taken that, for the projects that we were hoping to implement in this first phase, (and) brought it down to the level so that now we can take those contracts out to bid and have someone bid on them."

Gibbs said she didn't agree with it but that Meisenheimer clarified things for her.

The plan passed with support from Councilors Julie Baughn (D-Ward 1), Jacob Avery (D-Ward 2), Jennifer Tallon (D-Ward 4) and Dave Monette (D-Ward 5). Both Gibbs and Moore voted against it.

Email: cnewton@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: CarlySNewton