MILFORD - A public meeting to discuss concepts which could add additional usage to the ball field at Catharine and Third Streets and foot access to the Delaware River front was held Monday, November 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Milford Borough Hall. An audience of approximately 30-40 gathered to hear a presentation of ideas which have sparked the backing of the Greater Pike Community Foundation and the Milford Enhancement Committee.

The meeting was moderated by Mayor Sean Strub with Maryanne Monte of the Enhancement Committee and Councilwoman Annette Haar who is also the chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee.

The Greater Pike Community Foundation (GPCF) provided a grant to fund a survey of the ball field and connecting borough property which fronts the Delaware River.

Current access to the river is via a borough right-of-way on River Road. The GPCF grant also provided funding to enlist the services of architect William Reue for a series of conceptual drawings of improvements which could make access to the river front property via a pathway and stairway from the back of the ball field. Strub was clear to state that no Borough funds have been used so far for these concepts and that also no decisions have been made by the Borough to approve or deny any plans for these concepts.

Study 10 years ago

Maryanne Monte shared that Richard Snyder who had the initial vision for the improvement of the streetscape and sidewalks of the borough worked with the Route 6 Heritage Association about 10 years ago by partially funding a study on how to improve the financial viability and tourist attraction to the Borough. One of the key findings of the study was the lack of utilization of the river access.

Snyder’s vision included connecting the borough with the McDade Trail in the Upper Delaware National Recreation Area, which will be enhanced with the completion of the Mott Street Bridge pedestrian rehabilitation, and also the trail network at Grey Towers.

A natural treasure

Annette Haar sees access to the Delaware River, a natural treasure, as bolstering tourism and beneficial to the borough. She had met with the late Lou Theodore, whose property borders the ball field, to walk the property lines and gain some insight about the historic usage of the property along the river.

Local real estate entrepreneur Davis Chant recalled that during his youth the river was a focal point of the borough with boat parades as well as Pike County Days being held there and attended by residents and visitors. His thoughts are that we are not talking about something that has never happened with the property and that thoughts of re-utilization have been put on the back burner for the last 20 or 30 years and  “if we can shine it, and polish it, we don’t have to do a lot, we’ve got something down there that will be really special.”

Plan described

Architect William Reue made the presentation of 35-40 slides which was accompanied by various prints displayed around the hall. The vision includes removing the chain link fencing around the perimeter and developing the natural path connecting Catharine and High Streets which exists just over the knoll at the back of the field towards the river. Included in what Reue classified as an “intervention” are a “gateway” or possibly a pavilion incorporating local blue stone. The 8’x 16’ gateway would be the the top of a zig-zag stairway cut into the steep bank at the back of the ball field down to the river spanning the rise of 65 feet. There would be landings and the view of the river would be opened up. The 18’x40’ open air pavilion could be a larger structure in place of the “gateway” with a roof for smaller events to occur, bringing alternative use of the property for more than just baseball games. It could host music, yoga, as well as presentations for the ball teams. Also mentioned to fit into the area beyond the ball field could be a dog park, another playground, or usages yet to be named. The ideas as presented could be carried out individually without compromising the entire project or as funding allows.

Mayor Strub considers the project as an enhancement to Milford benefiting residents, while both Monte and Haar both spoke of the project influencing tourist attraction to the borough which brought some concerns from residents of River Road on the impact of increased usage.

More regulations?

Another concern by  residents was how increased usage at the riverside might require regulations to be placed on activities that are currently being enjoyed. Residents were also concerned with ongoing yearly costs associated with the development and where the funding will come from. Mayor Strub pointed out that there is a funding source established by Dick Snyder and administered by the GPCF for the maintenance of Enhancement Committee projects.

Another resident asked about the seasonal use of the stairway and what will happen in the colder months with snow and ice. Jon Kameen suggested coordinating efforts with the National Park Service to reap the rewards of the existing infrastructure in place at Milford Beach for river access.

The next steps will depend on whether the council wishes to proceed on any or all of the ideas presented. According to Reue the critical next steps are a soil engineer and a landscape architect to work out the placement and logistics of the staircase portion of the project.