Southampton Town officials and representatives of the architectural firm hired to design Good Ground Park in Hampton Bays discussed plans to build a two-way street with 80 diagonal parking spaces and a row of storefronts through the southern portion of the park at a public forum last week.
John Williams, president of MKW Landscape Architecture, the New Jersey company awarded the $200,000 contract to design the 36-acre park that would run from Montauk Highway to Sunrise Highway along Squiretown Road, presented his plan—and accepted feedback on a bevy of potential features for the park—during a meeting with about three dozen hamlet residents last Wednesday night, May 7.
During the discussion, Mr. Williams floated the idea of possibly connecting the new road—which would run parallel to Montauk Highway and act as an entrance into the park from Springville Road—to either an extended Cemetery Road or a new road that would be built through a now vacant section of land along Montauk Highway.
The new road was part of the concept plan created last spring that the town used to secure the $128,519 grant from the State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to help fund the facility’s design. While most of those in attendance had little to say about the plan, at least one woman took issue with the idea of carving out a new corridor for the proposed parking spaces and stores.
“Why do we need a road with more shops in the middle of this beautiful park?” said Deborah Foley, a Hampton Bays mother with two young children. “I think we already have a lot of shops, some of which are vacant on Main Street. And who’s going to be controlling what stores go in there?
“Because if I’ve got an entryway to a children’s park nearby, I don’t want some of these stores,” she continued. “I don’t need another pizzeria, I don’t need another Chinese restaurant, and I don’t need a beauty salon or deli.”
She added that she likes the idea of having a walkable business district, but questions whether Hampton Bays will be able to attract the right kind of companies for such an area.
Mr. Williams said the idea is to attract park-friendly businesses, such as cafés, restaurants and kiosks that could be open seasonally or for one-time uses, like festivals and other events.
“That’s how we’ve been talking, generally, about this,” Mr. Williams said. “That’s what we see as a possibility—not [auto] body repair shops, not industrial stuff—things that are park-sensitive, park-centric and kind of augment the park and, at the same [time], augment downtown [Hampton Bays].
“This is a destination, I think, that you want the citizens in your community to come to and there are other uses that would work really well with the park that I think would be great,” he continued.
A dozen lots line what will eventually be the southern border of the park and each is zoned village business. Some properties extend all the way to Montauk Highway, while others are shorter, though all are be eligible to have some type of business built on them, Deputy Town Supervisor Frank Zappone said after the meeting.
Mr. Zappone noted that the town has conducted studies for both the “new north main street,” as well as the construction of the other roads that would potentially feed into it, and MKW will use those studies as a baseline when developing the park’s design. The design must be finished by the end of June so town officials can apply for state grants to help finance its construction, which is expected to cost around $2 million.
During the forum, which was held in the Southampton Town Community Center on Ponquogue Avenue in Hampton Bays, Mr. Williams presented an array of possibilities for every aspect of the park, ranging from major components, like the type of amphitheater and performance stage, to minute details, such as the kind of pavement that will be used for the walking trails or the styles of benches and trash cans.
Mr. Williams also discussed other potential features including an interactive water element for children to play in, rest areas at various points along the proposed walking trail, elaborate playscapes and a grand entryway with a beacon or lighthouse to attract visitors prior to concerts and other events.
Officials also discussed incorporating the 1.9-acre property that sits across from the Hampton Bays Firehouse on Montauk Highway into Good Ground Park, possibly as part of the main entrance. That property, however, is owned by the Hampton Bays Fire District, and Fire Commissioner Rob King said the district’s board has not yet met with town officials to discuss that possibility.
During last week’s presentation, attendees were given a booklet containing the different features and a marker to check off the ideas they like and dislike, as well as offer written suggestions. The booklets were handed back to MKW at the end of the evening.
After Mr. Williams ended his presentation, residents shared their opinions of the park, and while most spoke favorably of at least one combination of ideas, Hampton Bays resident Bruce Doscher said he was not ready to throw his support behind any aspect until he knows how much the town is going to be spending.
“The place to start is, ‘How much money do we have for this thing?’” Mr. Doscher said. “Then we can figure out how many features we can put in, then we aren’t disappointing people down the line … I think you’ve gotta start with the number and add features to that number.”
Mr. Zappone said town officials do not yet know how much they are looking to spend on the park’s features or its future operational expenses. He added that, at this stage of the process, the town is more concerned with identifying what features are desired by the community and securing as much grant money as possible.
“I don’t mean to be evasive, but we’re gonna have to pick our way through that and make judgments about, ‘Yes, we like this idea, but we’re not going to be able to sustain this idea in perpetuity,’” Mr. Zappone said. “But we don’t know what the answer to that is until we start looking at some of the ideas.”
The park could be completed as early as next spring if the town secures the required grant money, according to Mr. Williams.