A small group of Wayne County businessmen- one being a county commissioner- is working on a proposed, long-term strategic plan to rejuvenate Bingham Park for the community. A preliminary design was shown to the Hawley Parks & Recreation Commission, Tuesday night, October 17.

HAWLEY - A small group of Wayne County businessmen- one being a county commissioner- is working on a proposed, long-term strategic plan to rejuvenate Bingham Park for the community. A preliminary design was shown to the Hawley Parks & Recreation Commission, Tuesday night, October 17.

Numerous state and local foundation grants would be sought to fund the improvements. The interested group would also be willing to invest their money to assist in paying for maintenance for the first 10 years, said James Shook, owner of Lake Region IGA and a part of this grassroots committee. Shook, who made the presentation, is also chairman of Hawley Parks & Rec.

The other investors, with Shook, are Joseph W. Adams, county commissioner and a former school administrator and banker, as well as a native of Hawley; and Craig Smyth, who since 1986 has been president and CEO of Clemleddy Construction, based in Hawley.

Stressed in the presentation was the need for a comprehensive plan for the park. Shook, as well as other Parks & Rec members, noted that there have been projects done in the park with all the best intentions, but it has been on a “piecemeal” basis, with no coherent planning.

The multifaceted plan was met with many questions by Parks & Rec, with caution expressed that there will certainly be many more. Parks & Rec approved recommending the concept to borough council, for further research. It will ultimately be up to the borough council to decide; another presentation is expected to be made before the council on Wednesday, November 8 at Borough Hall (the meeting begins at 7 p.m.). Parks & Rec Vice-Chair, Elaine Herzog, who is also a councilwoman, said there will undoubtedly be a need for more than one public hearing before all this is finalized.

On November 8, Council would be asked, not to approve the project per-say, but to approve going forward for further study.

Shook emphasized that this in the preliminary stages, and subject to change. Herzog also stressed that their approval to recommend moving ahead research was not approval of the plan itself. She said this is by no means a “commitment” since there are many unanswered questions that will have to be addressed.

The committee behind this proposal paid to have an engineer draw up a rendering showing the suggested changes.

Council President Ann Monaghan asked that the borough solicitor be briefed ahead of time, so that he can be ready with a list of questions for the council meeting.

WHAT’S PROPOSED

Highlights of the proposed Bingham Park plan include:

Further developing a park atmosphere around the bandstand and playgrounds with more trees and picnic areas Removing the parking area from next to the bandstand, replacing it with grass. This will allow the public to sit almost all the way around the bandstand to hear concerts. Create a 34-space parking area, bordered by trees, next to Main Avenue (Route 6) where the basketball court is at present. Other parking spaces would line half of Park Place starting near the junction with Route 6. Create two new basketball courts on the south end directly across from Borough Hall, in place of the Ed “Snoz” Miller baseball diamond. Relocate the skate park next to these basketball courts. Instead of three baseball diamonds, only two would remain, in there current locations in the former canal basin (north half of the park). These will be regulation ball fields and can be used for a variety of sports, including baseball, football, soccer, frisbee, rugby and field hockey. New bleachers would be placed next to the field along Park Place. The renovated tennis courts would remain where there are with the addition of new pickle ball courts. A tree-shaded loop walking trail would extend all around the park with extended walkways to the bandstand, playgrounds, restrooms and 9/11 Memorial area. New pavilions would be added not far from the  9/11 Memorial along the loop trail. There will still be a large open area, the Ed “Snoz” Miller Field on the south end between the relocated basketball courts, Park Place and the central area containing the bandstand, etc. A river and fishing access trail would allow carrying of canoes and kayaks to the Lackawaxen River. A future pedestrian bridge would connect upper Park Place, with the Riverside Park flood levee trail on the other side of the river. Historic kiosks would be placed explaining the history of the canal basin and park, including areas that were named in memory of someone.

Biggest in Wayne County

“County Commissioner Joe Adams, who is supporting the process, he has taken it to the commissioners for their blessing and support,” Shook said. “The commissioners feel as well, too, that this is the gem of Wayne County, it is this park, it is THE biggest public park in Wayne County and it has the most to offer.”

President Monaghan asked whether the county would help with the maintenance costs. “Because we’re having trouble now, to keep it maintained,” she said.

Shook deferred the question to Adams, who he said will be better able to answer the question at the Council meeting in November. “But he feels that what we are doing there will make the park more maintenance free than it is now,” he said.

For instance, the tennis court fencing will be all new galvanized fence with probably a 15 to 20 year guarantee. All of the trails will have a rubberized surface similar to what was placed under the playgrounds.

Keep to the charter

Monaghan also asked if the charter for Bingham Park was explored, which carries very specific instructions about what is allowable in the park. Bingham Park was created after a Hawley native, Adelbert Bingham, donated the land to the borough in 1929. The park was then developed in the early 1930’s through the Work Progress Administration.

Shook replied that the charter will be followed by the engineering company.

“Right now we are asking for the blessing to continue with our research…,” Shook said. “Then we will personally fund the engineering fees to take it to the next level and bring a plan…” This plan will address building codes and ensure handicapped accessibility.

“It’s not going to happen overnight. More likely as the money comes in, it will be done in stages,” he said.
Monaghan also asked what would be done to retain the “Victorian theme” on which the original park was built. “The character of the park has been a Victorian-era type- the most modern thing we’ve probably done is the bathrooms and the playground,” she said.

Shook stated that they do not intend to change any of that, but would rather include maintenance of the historic (1932) bandstand and enhance its enjoyment with a grassy area all the way around. This would allow both for concerts and enjoying picnics, without the dust from the parking lot next to it.

Comprehensive plan

“Our biggest thing we want to do with the park is to fix what’s broke, lay out a plan so it’s not disturbed anymore,” Shook explained. “It seems like over the last 10 years things have been added- ‘We’ll fit this here, we’ll fit this there.’ The idea is to have a comprehensive plan that engulfs that park so it eliminates that from happening again, and actually ties it altogether.”

Monaghan said she really wanted to keep the rural character of the park.
He said his committee is willing to invest money on a yearly basis, probably for the next 10 years and will probably be able to put that in writing. Many of the improvements will be new, which limits maintenance needs. Astro turf would be placed on the ball fields.

Ongoing maintenance will ensure, among other things, that the court resurfacing is kept up. The borough has been struggling for a few years to find funds to resurface the long-neglected tennis courts, for example.

Everything will be bid to companies that want to do the work, and will be held to follow all the codes, Shook said. He added that nothing will be done until the phase is fully funded.

P.J. Dougherty, who sits on Hawley Parks & Rec and is employed by Clemleddy Construction, commented that Bingham Park, at present, needs a major shift in how things are done. “From a physical construction standpoint, that park is going the wrong way,” he said. “A top-down approach is required at this point. I completely agree with the approach. I think the right people are there, hopefully the right money will be with it…”

Before any construction is started, agreements need to be in places and “all our bases covered,” Dougherty said. He noted the upgrade done to the ball field this spring, which unfortunately is becoming overgrown with grass and weeds. (The plan is to aggressively address the ball field diamond in the spring of 2018 prior to ball season.)
Herzog suggested that what may be required down the road, is to name a full-time, professional park superintendent.

A regular, coordinated maintenance schedule is needed, Dougherty pointed out. The plan needs to consider that cost, Monaghan stated, including how the borough will continue to cover those costs after the 10 year period of private donations Shook mentioned.

Dougherty presented written recommendations. He emphasized that as they move closer to construction, there is written communication between the two entities.  

Look beyond Hawley

Dialogue is also needed with nearby townships to help pay for the maintenance, whose residents also use Bingham Park, Shook said. Dougherty estimated that 80% of people who use the park aren’t from the borough, and with these upgrades, even more will come.

“If you’re going to get people coming from outside the borough,” Monaghan interjected, “you can’t expect the borough to foot the entire bill.”

The borough will need to set up a separate bank account for Bingham Park maintenance, Monaghan said.
Shook stated later that the idea started with Craig Smyth, president of Clemleddy Construction, whose company volunteered this past summer to finish the restrooms and toddler playground project started by the CJR Memorial Foundation.

Messages have been left by The News Eagle for both Adams and Smyth, inviting them to offer comments about this proposal and their involvement in the project.