COPAKE—The town recently celebrated its Memorial Park’s 35th anniversary with an array of family-focused festivities in and around the hamlet August 5. But some park neighbors told the Town Board at its August 12 meeting that the fireworks finale at the end of that celebratory day bombarded their property with debris, leaving a mess that is still being cleaned up.
In response to the concerns aired at the Saturday morning meeting a week after the park celebration, the Town Board asked Town Attorney Ken Dow to draft a new local law that will prohibit setting off fireworks at the 305 Mountain View Road park—forever.
Shirley Knox, who lives in a house that borders park property spoke during the public forum at the Town Board meeting and told members she had approached Councilperson Kelly Miller-Simmons about two weeks prior to the event voicing concerns about possible damage to her roof from fireworks fallout and debris.
Mrs. Knox said she was told by Ms. Miller-Simmons that there was nothing she could do about it since the show had already been booked.
During the oooohs and aaaahs of the fireworks show, which went on non-stop for 15 to 20 minutes and was deemed by many viewers to be a spectacular success, Mrs. Knox said “my tenant became disillusioned because she was unable to sit on her deck without being pelted by the fireworks fallout.” Further, she said her tenant, who had just moved in, was concerned about her family’s safety.
Examining her property the following morning, Mrs. Knox said she discovered “a total mess” of “cardboard and sulfur snowballs.” She said Town Supervisor Jeff Nayer and Town Highway Superintendent Bill Gregory, who is also in charge of park maintenance, spent most of that day cleaning up the debris, which continued to fall from the trees.
She noted that no one from the town’s Park and Recreation Commission, which organized the event, had stopped by to assess the situation or help with the cleanup. Mrs. Knox said she did not believe the town had included the cost of cleaning up her yard in the fireworks expense.
Mr. Nayer told The Columbia Paper in a follow-up phone conversation that he, Mr. Gregory and another Highway Department employee had so far spent 17 hours cleaning up the debris at the Knox place, which he described as “shredded cardboard” or “confetti.” An added 24 to 30 hours was spent picking up debris at the park.
The total cost of the fireworks show orchestrated by American Fireworks Display, LLC, of Oxford, New York, was $3,000. Camp Waubeeka, a family campground that borders the north side of the park, paid $1,750 of the cost and the town paid $1,250. The town had budgeted that amount for the special celebration, said the supervisor.
There are about seven houses that abut the park on the south and east sides and others within the Taconic Shores housing development on the west side, Mr. Nayer said.
Diana Jamieson, Mrs. Knox’s daughter, who also lives in a house abutting the park, also voiced concerns about the fireworks at the meeting. She said it was not just her mother’s yard that was hit by debris; it had scattered as far as 500 feet away from where the fireworks were displayed. While she noted that safety guidelines were followed, Mrs. Jamieson said the location of the park in a residential area “is not where events like that should take place.”
Mr. Nayer said a 250- by 150-foot safety zone around the fireworks detonation area had been established and the pyrotechnics professionals had limited the size of the shells due to space constraints.
Mrs. Knox, who reminded the board that she and her husband had sold and donated some of the park land to the town, made “a plea” to the board to “never allow fireworks ever again” at the park. She said there is not enough room there for fireworks to be safely displayed.
She also criticized tractor pull events at the park saying they create an “intolerable noise” that should not be allowed within town limits.
During the board discussion of the fireworks, Mr. Nayer said “hindsight is 20-20” and he agreed that the park was not an appropriate place to shoot off fireworks. He said other municipalities that sponsor fireworks displays blast them out over the river. Councilperson Jeanne Mettler said she felt bad about what Mrs. Knox had endured and would be in favor of a measure to ban fireworks from the park.
The board discussed whether the prohibition should come in the form of a resolution or a local law. Attorney Dow noted that either a law or a resolution could still be rescinded by a decision of a future Town Board, but that enacting a local law is a more involved process.
The board will take up the matter again at its September 14 meeting at 7 p.m.
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