Public input is seen as very important to the proposed Bingham Park revitalization project. A group of local community and business leaders, with strong ties to Hawley and the park, held a second public meeting, February 19, at Borough Hall.

HAWLEY - Public input is seen as very important to the proposed Bingham Park revitalization project. A group of local community and business leaders, with strong ties to Hawley and the park, held a second public meeting, February 19, at Borough Hall.

Plans as presented and as they develop will only proceed with the approval and oversight of the Borough, they have stressed. To further explain their ideas and gather input, a web site and email address have been created:

(Website address) www.binghampark.org

(Email address) Fun@Binghampark.org.

Following a legacy

One of this group of visionaries, Ron Schmalzle, led the presentation. Schmalzle and his brother own and run Ski Big Bear and Costa’s Family Fun Park, and is also involved with Pine Forest Camp/Lake Owego Camp/ Camp Timber Tops.  “My entire adult life has been about fun, but it’s really been about creating recreational facilities”- as well as building and managing them.

Others in the group include Craig Smyth, Clemleddy Construction; Joe Adams, county commissioner and Jim Shook, Lake Region IGA.

Taking a look at history, Schmalzle noted that Bingham Park was developed following a donation of land to the borough in 1929. A well engineered and coordinated plan was created, which resulted in park facilities and structures that have been long lasting. Among these are the beloved bandstand, a symbol of Hawley.

He suggested that operations of the park over subsequent decades have not necessarily been as well coordinated. An important step towards revitalization came about through the vision of Joe Regenski and the CJR Memorial Foundation he had organized after the death of his young son. The result was a large, up to date playground dedicated in 2014, and further efforts that included a new toddler play area, walkways and the much needed restrooms.

Help was needed to finish the latter phases of that project, which was answered by Craig Smyth and his workers. Concerns were recognized about the need for an organized plan to improve the park going forward. The present group came together and put in their own money for an engineering study, which was presented to Hawley Parks & Recreation Commission and Borough Council in the fall of 2017.

He said the group wishes to continue the legacy that formed the community park.

That plan is subject to change, given borough and community input and decisions. The timeline for its implementation, Schmalzle said, is dependent on approval of grant funding. Top priority, however, is the repair and maintenance of the bandstand, and electrical upgrade.

Baseball

Three baseball fields were created in Bingham Park, for different age groups. Schmalzle noted that building an planning baseball fields is the most difficult, due to the needs of different age groups.

Baseball continues to be an integral part of the new project.

Two multi-purpose fields are planned in the north end, where the former canal basin is found. Football, soccer, field hockey and other games could be played here. A concession stand, and permanent dugout and bleachers installed in the embankments- the canal basin walls, are planned. Protective netting would be placed between the main field and the playground/pavilion area. Turf grass is on their wish list, but is a costly item.

The ball field on the south end would be eliminated.

Sam Gurian, president of the Wallenpaupack Little League, inquired and offered input about the needs for a conversion field, one that can be adapted for various age levels. He said Little League is probably the primary user of the fields, and in the last seven years the Little League has invested time and money to keep the fields at a playable level.

He asked how much thought was being put into the plan to accommodate the different age groups. Adams said that they presently don’t have a full sized baseball field in Bingham Park but will once they move the skateboard park.

With a turf field, he said, they can accommodate the distances for Little League, Teener League and high school level JV and Varsity games. Moveable bases and pitcher mound would be used. Turf would be much easier to maintain, he said.

The small field at the corner with Route 6 and Hudson would be for Little League softball.

Adams said there used to be a full size baseball field at Hawley, Newfoundland, Paupack, Lackawaxen and the high school. Now there is only one at the school. “The Teener League opportunities and American Legion opportunities for 13 to 18 year olds have been greatly diminished because we don’t have enough fields,” Adams said.

Gurian expressed concern for the sake of the project planners, that use of a bigger field may be limited to April and May for school ball, and after that the teams travel. Adams said it would be set up for multi-purpose. Softball and Little League could still play there, as well as other sports.

The idea of losing the lower field (Edward “Snoz” Miller Field), “hurts deeply,” Gurian said, given the roughly $2,000 that was raised and spent to upgrade the field for the Challenger League kids. He said they are just looking out that the needs of the Little League will be watched out for. Wallenpaupack Challenger League offers play for kids 6 to 18, the only one in a 60 mile radius that is offered, he said.

Adams assured that both fields in the north side would be rebuilt for handicapped accessibility.

Little League. Gurian said, always wants to show appreciation to entities allowing them to use a ball field, and offer time and money to help maintain fields.

Gurian stated that they would love to be able to host tournament, All-Star games.He said a Saturday night All-Star game makes it feel “like a baseball game in the middle of town.” Adams said the School District may also be happy to partner with that. It may be possible to have multiple games at the same time, combined with the school fields. “The commerce that this could bring to the community is pretty impressive,” Adams said. “… It’s a big business and an important economic diver.”

Baseball, Adams said, will be a big part of the plan. “We will have two world class fields; right now we don’t have any. That’s the goal.” The proposed bridge would tie in the field in Riverside Park. “Having three exceptional, good playing fields within a quarter mile of each other is impressive,” he said.

More improvements

Making room for this multi-purpose, regulation ball field, the present skateboard park would be relocated to the south end across from borough hall. This would be under camera surveillance and have lighting. A new basketball court would be placed next to the skateboard park.

The tennis court area in the north side next to Route 6 would be retained, but fully renovated. One half would be for tennis and the other half for two pickleball courts.

The present parking by the bandstand would be replaced with more lawn, where tents could be set up and people assemble to hear concerts. New pavilions would go on the other side of the restrooms.

More parking space will result from a new lot, proposed in the area of the present basketball court just off Route 6, and along Park Place.

“Rubberized,” porous walking trails would be created.

Improved, shielded lighting would be part of the plan.

A fishing and boating access would be created off Park Place in the Lackawaxen River. A long range plan would add a pedestrian bridge off the park extension that parallels Hudson Street. This bridge would give easy foot access to the broader-scale hiking plan that includes Riverside Park, as well as the ball field in that park.

One of the project partners is the Wayne Pike Trails & Waterways Alliance.

Grant Genzlinger, who is the borough’s newly appointed liaison to the Alliance, recommended that Riverside Park be shown as well on a map along with the Bingham Park project to show how they can interconnect. He said this needs to be part of Hawley’s strategic plan.

Ambitious plan

“It’s a vision of four people with a lot of input from others,” Schmalzle said. “A vision of four people who grew up in that park spending a lot of time on the basketball courts and the fields. The most exciting part for me is this is a park for all ages.”

“This obviously is not our decision and not our property. It is not our total voice that is going to make this,” Schmalzle said. “All we want to do is to throw something out there and fund something… that people can take and run with, or say we don’t want to do it. If you do that you have a pretty good argument because I can’t think of any good reason not to go down some kind of road to make this centerpiece of our community, better.”

Joe Adams stated that the PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR), a major potential funding source they wish to tap, is excited about the concept of making Hawley a central hub. From that hub, spokes of recreational opportunities extend out, including the railroad, walking trails and the river.

In addition to applying for grants, Jim Shook said he is ready -pending borough approval- to link the Lake Region Community Dock Foundation to the project website, as a means to collect donations.

“This is an ambitious plan,” said Adams, who has a long financial background. “…It’s a lot of money. A full size turf infield only is about $250,000.”

They noted that the way the project is envisioned, it will create substantial cost savings to the borough by the materials and equipment selected.

Vote on March 14

Council President Ann Monaghan stated that at the March 14th council meeting, they can take a vote on whether to proceed. The maintenance issue has been a major concern of the borough, she said. Schmalzle said that they need to prioritize the plan, which will have to be done in phases.

She said she has been assured that the grant sources that would be tapped for recreation wouldn’t conflict wit other grant application needs the borough has for other projects. The borough would serve as the applicant for the park project grants.

Adams said that Wallenpaupack Area School District is very interested in the project.

“We’re just rally excited about the opportunity to be able to give back to the community,” Adams said. “I played there 50 years ago, up through the age 18. It’s a crown jewel that needs a little polish, and then to be set up for the next multiple generations to use is just an exciting opportunity for us to contribute to our community and the kids.”

Monaghan welcomed the public to offer more comments.