Park called Chatham’s ‘jewel’ in the town

CHATHAM–The town Recreation and Parks Commission is trying to get the word out about what’s going on in Crellin Park, so two members of the commission and the town’s Recreation Director Mike West sat down with the Columbia Paper last month to talk about the upcoming Park Day on August 12 as well as other things the town park has to offer.

Commission member and Town Councilwoman Landra Haber called the park a “jewel” of the town. It covers about 60 acres right outside the Village of Chatham to the north along Route 66. “It’s just getting the word out there,” said she of park activities during an interview.

Mike West took over as rec director last summer. He said that the summer program for 100 kids has stayed basically the same for the last several years. Children who attend participate in outdoor programs and swim in the pond from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. from July to mid-August. There is a fee of $85 for town residents, which includes kids from the part of Village of Chatham which lies within the Town of Ghent. Those from other towns pay $175. Mr. West said that despite the fees, the park is “basically running at a deficit.” The total budget for the camp program in 2017 town budget is about $59,000. There is also a Parks budget line for maintenance of about $23,000.

Camper Kieran Hills, 7, and Stephan Silwell, camp director of SCORE (Stride Camp for Outdoor Recreation and Education), are pictured swimming at Crellin Park. The SCORE campers used the Town of Chatham owned park for swimming in mid-July. Photo by Siobhan Connally

There are also tennis and swimming lessons offered.

The Kinderhook Town Summer Recreation Program pays a fee to use the pond for swimming.

There is also a Children’s Gardening Program, which is separate from the camp, though campers can attend. This year the town leased a half acre to the garden program director. She and a board of directors for the program have set up a tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization so that the program can receive donations.

The day camp program ends August 11 and on August 12 the town will host a Crellin Park Day from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. with music, swimming, stand-up paddle-boarding, disc golf and volleyball. Town Councilman John Wapner, who is also on the commission, said that the town is looking for more engagement in the park.

“The park has got real vitality,” he said.

The commission, which is made up representatives from the Chatham School Central School District, the Morris Memorial program and community members, plans to focus on what can be done in the park, Mr. Wapner said.

Mr. West said that there have been collaborative efforts with the community. And one change the Town Board made was to allow groups to apply to the town for a permit to serve alcohol at park events. A bike race sponsored partially by Chatham Brewing used one of the pavilions at the park to serve beer. Mr. West said that the pavilions at the park can be rented for events like birthday parties, and they are in use most weekends.

There have been improvements at the park, including repairs at the basketball court. Mr. Wapner said the commission is going to focus now on other needed improvements, stressing upgrades or changes will remain “in line with the Comprehensive Plan.” He said the commission is working with the Chatham Middle School and High School to do some building projects in the park.

The Mary E. Dardess Elementary School planted a tree in the park for the Arbor Day celebration this year. And High School students at Chatham took a survey during the last school year on what they wanted to see at the park, which led to the basketball court repairs.

“The goal would be a year round rec program for the town,” said Mr. Wapner.

There is still work to be done at the pavilion near the pond. The original building was torn down a few years ago and the new roof was put up for shelter and the town rents portable toilets to be used during the summer swimming season.

Mr. West said he has to turn kids away from the summer program due to space limitations and would need more staffing and a bigger building to accommodate all the kids who want to attend the program.

As for Park Day, the commission members said they hope to make it an annual event, and they are funding the event through donations. At a June 15, town board meeting the board approved transferring $3000 in the budget fund the Park Day.

Mr. West said that he hopes the event brings awareness to the park.

Ms. Haber said that some residents who use the park “may use the swimming pond but not know about the trails.”

The town’s Recreation and Parks Commission meetings are held on the forth Monday of the month at 6 p.m. at the town hall and are open to the public. For more information about the park go to www.crellinpark.org.

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