Hudson residents see promise in Oakdale Lake

HUDSON–People suggested a variety of activities and goals for Hudson’s Oakdale Park and its lake at a workshop October 13.

The lake has had a public beach since 1948, the park has a variety of tree and bird species. Hudson’s Youth Department runs a summer day camp there.

Friends of Oakdale Lake formed as “a group of mothers who go swimming with their children” there. They decided to band together for improvements, according to Piper Olf, one of the founders. She grew up in Castleton and moved to Hudson in 2011.

The friends group teamed with Columbia University’s Hudson Valley Initiative at Columbia University (HVI), holding the workshop to “develop a design for on how Oakdale Park can be for everybody in Hudson.”

The workshop included a map where people could post notes saying what they do or want at the lake and park. Around the room stood easels with pictures, some from Oakdale’s past, some of various parks around the world, many in cities much larger than Hudson. After opening remarks by HVI director Kaja Kuehl, participants divided into three groups, each to discuss a different topic: Oakdale for Youth, Oakdale as a Nature Preserve, and Oakdale as a Public Park for Everybody. Subsequently HVI representatives summarized what the groups had said. Hudson Mayor Rick Rector and some Common Council members attended for at least part of the session.

Conversations, summaries and post-it notes mentioned ice skating, trails, fishing, boating, swimming, beach volley ball, the playground, a dog run, a basketball coach, skateboarding, viewing platforms, floating platforms, board games, the beach house, refreshments, accessibility, day camp facilities, “a variety of destinations” with degrees of sun and shade, two little ponds in woods near the lake, and special events.

Comments also mentioned “a variety of shade structures,” additional park entries and swim access points, a nature and science program, water fountain, spring fed pump, “community space,” added Noah, an HVI student.

But, “some people would like it to stay natural,” admonished a woman. “They want it as a way to get away from civilization. We’re not in favor of a huge man-made environment.”

“How do you celebrate all four seasons?” asked Alan Neumann, president of Historic Hudson. “I think we have a handle on summer and winter. But how do you make other seasons special?”

“How do you bring a variety of communities, the elderly community, and the young community together?” asked Noah.

“You want not to worry about your kids,” and, “If more people use the park, homeless people will be less likely to camp there,” HVI spokespeople added.

“Ice skating was the first big point,” said Noah, who summarized the Public Park discussion, where Chris Post had said he lives in Claverack and the only place to skate was Oakdale Lake.

Richard Tracy, mayor of Hudson in 2006-07 and before that the city’s youth director for 32 years (1972-2004), told the Public Park group about Oakdale skating in winters past. “The fire company flooded the lake. A sound system played music for the skaters,” he said. “In winter, the beach house had rubber on its floor for skaters, and its fireplace was lit. There was lighting around the lake for night skating.”

Several people suggested a better trail for walking and running around the lake. “I’ve walked around the lake, and it’s a lovely walk, but it’s not easy. You should be able to walk without looking at your feet, for tree roots and stumps,” said Mr. Neumann.

HVI members said the trail had eroded and should be mad “walkable, accessible and safe.”

“Widen it, make it accessible to all people,” said Noah.

Tamar Adler, another Friends of Oakdale founder and, like Ms. Olf, is the mother of a two year old , suggested, “Let local artists develop art installations and spread them across the trail.

Some people suggested a “nature walk” combined with or separate from the trail around the lake.

Other notes called for fishing. “Fishing piers were popular…. there was a fishing derby,” in Oakdale’s past, said Mr. Tracy. Noah said there had been ice fishing.

“I would love to swim across the lake”, said a note writer. Another requested lifeguards for the entire summer. Last summer, the beach had life guards only during camp weeks.

“The playground equipment is wobbly” and needs to be fixed or replaced.

The park’s skateboarding facility “gets hot,” said a participant. “There should be trees around it”

“What about chess and checkers?” suggested Mr. Neumann. “The idea of mixing ages is good. What attracts an older crowd? I think of [Manhattan’s] Washington Square Park with its chess sets.”

Addressing a comment that called for upgrading the beach house for a variety of activities, Mr. Neumann said, “Its design in 1948 was majestic. It was in the spirit of Franklin Roosevelt’s Work Projects Administration. There was an integrity to the original design of the building.” Many participants wanted a refreshment stand. “There should be a way to have a picnic without having to go home,” said Mr. Neumann.

“We have talked both about having tables spread throughout and an ADA-compliant food concession stand,” said an HVI summarizer.

To welcome the mobility-impaired, Ms. Adler suggested places with level access from the parking lot.

A participant in the youth discussion suggested more sheltered areas for when it rains.

Near the trail at an end of the lake are two little ponds, which “look disgusting, but they’re ecologically healthy,” said Ms. Adler. “If there were boardwalks and viewing platforms, there would be less of a chance that people would throw things like mattresses in them.”

This year’s special events included a polar plunge and a picnic at the lake. Ms. Adler suggested making boats out of cardboard and racing them on the lake.

“One year, I worked with some divers and had an underwater pumpkin carving contest,” said Mr. Tracy.

He recalled as a child frequenting Oakdale Park. “On the other side of the lake from the beach was a building where we did arts and crafts. The picnic area was a very busy area. It extended all the way up the hill.” Oakdale Lake had a wading pool section, though he did not like to get out of his boat when it stalled there, because the bottom was slimy. Eventually, “we had to take the crafts building down,” because the ground behind it was collapsing.

“The next step is for the HVI to draw up a plan based on the input. We will be back,” Ms. Kuehl said.

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