Tight budget prospect hovers over park plans

CHATHAM–The Town Board met last week for a workshop meeting to discuss Crellin Park. By one count 16 people attended the session at the Tracy Memorial Village Hall, many of them representing different constituents who use the park, including Village Mayor Tom Curran, Chatham School Board member David O’Connor, CABA (Chatham Area Business and Arts) President Tom Chulak, and representatives from the Morris Memorial Board.

The town owns the Crellin Park, which is on Route 66 just past the village line. The town hosts a summer program at the park for six weeks, hires lifeguards at the pond for swimming and maintains the playgrounds and tennis and basketball courts.

Mike West, the town’s new part-time recreation director told the board at the meeting that the town program would stay the same this year as it has for many years with a garden program, swimming lessons and activities for the local kids who sign up for the day camp. The cost for the program is not changing this year, he said. Town residents pay a lower rate for the program than out-of-town campers.

Mr. West also talked about other programs at the park like the Morris Memorial soccer teams that use the fields in the fall and groups that rent the pavilion for events.

The board has decided to focus its recreation discussion on Crellin Park for now since, as board members and Recreation Committee members Landra Haber and John Wapner pointed out, the park needs attention. Mr. Wapner said the board is moving forward with repairs to the blacktop at the basketball court and replacing swings at the playground this year.

“There could be a town-wide deficit,” said Mr. Wapner of the town’s 2017 budget so the board is not planning to spend more money on the park next year until officials know what the budget will be.

The recently created Recreation Committee plans to review recommendations made in the 2006 Town Comprehensive Plan for the recreation program. “Some of this stuff might be a little dated,” Ms. Haber said.

Mr. Wapner said the first job of the committee would be to review the document and update it.

Mr. Wapner also said that the committee’s main job is to look at the official “umbrella” under which the recreation program functions. The committee, he said, is “looking at ways to enhance recreation options in the park.”

Town Board members discussed looking into programs for seniors, working with the school district and the Crellin Park Foundation, a not-for-profit board created to raise money for the town’s now-complete skateboard park at Crellin. The foundation has about $18,000 and can continue to raise money for other projects, said Town Clerk Beth Ann Rippel, who is on the foundation’s board.

When the board opened the meeting to comments from the audience, Mr. Chulak wondered about the county’s involvement in parks like Crellin. “Where is the county in all the conversation about parks that are across town and village lines?” he asked.

One resident said that there needed to be more events at the park to get people there. Another resident asked about having bus service to the park, saying younger residents don’t have way to get to Crellin. There is a sidewalk from the village to the park, but this resident pointed out that some town residents might not be able to walk there.

Mayor Curran said that the village lies in both the Town of Ghent and the Town of Chatham, with the larger part in Ghent. He suggested having someone from the Ghent on the Recreation Committee.

In a related issue addressed at the meeting last week, the board passed a motion allowing the Town of Kinderhook recreation program to use the pond at Crellin for swimming lessons and afternoon open swim time. Kinderhook will pay Chatham for the service and bus the children from its recreation program to Crellin in the afternoon this summer.

Board member Henry Swartz brought up the cost issue again, saying, “We need to start looking back at our finances” before starting any projects like the swings and the paving of the basketball courts at the park.

Town Supervisor Maria Lull said that the paving would be done by the town Highway Department, since the town is already paving some local roads. There was no discussion at the meeting of the cost of the new swings.

Mr. Wapner said that he and Ms. Haber would put together an agenda for the next Recreation Committee meeting. There is not yet a date for that meeting.

The next regular Town Board meeting will be held at Chatham Town Hall June 16 at 7 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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