Southampton Town Board Gets First Look At $3.8 Million Good Ground Park Designs

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Consultants for Southampton Town unveiled designs for Good Ground Park in Hampton Bays this week, a $3.8 million plan calling for a two-sided outdoor amphitheater, terraced plazas, a pair of playgrounds, and picnic grounds.

The proposal also includes a new boulevard—some are calling it a “new Main Street”—that will boast new storefronts and dozens of parking spaces installed directly behind the shops that line the northern side of West Montauk Highway, the current main street of the hamlet.

Later this month, the town will submit an application to the state for $500,000 in grants to help with the creation of the 36-acre park, which the consultants said could be open to the public by the summer of 2016.

The sketches will be shared with the public over the summer for discussion and to help both consultants and town officials draft a priority list to develop the long-anticipated recreational facility in phases, as grant money and town funding become available.

The centerpiece of the park is the amphitheater, a key feature suggested by residents and officials during the conceptual discussions of the park design, and envisioned as a place for events that would draw people to the hamlet and its businesses.

The designs presented by the consultants, New Jersey-based landscape and urban planning firm MKW Landscape Architecture, show the amphitheater boasting a center stage with viewing areas on two sides—one a terraced seating arrangement, the other a sloping tree-lined hillside for more informal picnic-style seating.

The new boulevard would border the southern end of the park, with separate travel lanes divided by a vegetated median. Diagonal parking spots and sidewalks would line both sides of the street, with walkways connecting the anticipated new storefronts that would be built to the rear of the West Montauk Highway business corridor to the entrances to the park. There would also be a dedicated parking area near the entrance to the park road along Squiretown Road. In total, the facility will feature an estimated 150 parking spaces.

Pedestrians would enter the park at two spots, according to the design. The first is a green pocket park situated at the head of the Vince Cannuscio Trail, which connects to West Montauk Highway and sits next door to the Squiretown restaurant; the other would be a plaza leading toward the amphitheater, with a greenbelt connecting it to Main Street. However, the town does not currently own the land on which the second entrance on West Montauk Highway would be located—that land is owned by the Hampton Bays Fire District.

Scattered throughout the park would be two playgrounds for children of different ages, an adult fitness area, terraced seating, public bathrooms, and hiking and biking trails that loop through the northern reaches of the wooded property.

The plans, and the hefty price tag, raised some concerns among Town Board members.

“For a number of reasons, financial being one of them, this has to be a multiphased process,” Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone said at a Town Board work session last Thursday, May 29. “The grant has the potential of bringing $500,000 in this first year’s construction process. We are eligible to continue to apply for that grant for as long as the construction is ongoing.”

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst noted that the first phase, whatever its scope, should be involved enough to make the park usable on a broad scale, allowing for improvements to be made in subsequent years and as funding allows.

The state grant that the town is seeking could be worth a maximum of $500,000 annually and cover up to 50 percent of total construction costs, as long as there is matching funding from the town or other sources.

Susan von Freddi, president of the Hampton Bays Beautification Association, noted that there is potentially up to $100,000 in Suffolk County grants that could also be applied to the project, but that the town would have to submit an application for the cash by Friday, June 13, three days earlier than the state grant deadline. At the same time, the town is also seeking more than $1 million in construction grants from the county and state to fund the construction of a pedestrian bridge and walkway linking the Peconic River waterfronts in Riverside and Riverhead.

Board members also noted that some aspects of Good Ground Park may also be suitable for private funding through donations and dedications.

The town has pinched pennies and slashed capital spending on a broad scale over the last six years and, as a result, has seen its annual surpluses rise steadily. Ms. Throne-Holst said the Town Board has pledged to put those surpluses toward one-time capital expenses, rather than supplementing taxes to cover operating expenses—and that the park project has been something the town sees as an economic investment.

Still, certain board members still think that more work needs to be done.

“I’m concerned about the cost of maintaining it,” Town Councilman Stan Glinka said. “What kind of budget are we working with for keeping it up?”

Mr. Glinka, a former president of the Hampton Bays Chamber of Commerce, also said he wants the consultants to share their plans with the owners of Main Street businesses in Hampton Bays as soon as possible.

One of the visions in the conceptualizing of the park was that it needs to be a magnet that attracts people to downtown Hampton Bays. To that end, designers said they want to find ways to link the attractions with preexisting businesses along Montauk Highway, while also spurring new development to the rear of those shops that line the northern side of West Montauk Highway.

“All the studies … recommend the park as a generator, as a way to bring Hampton Bays back into the public eye, to bring people into it,” said John Williams, the president of MKW Landscape Architecture.

Town Planning and Development Administrator Kyle Collins noted that grant applications to the state must be in by Monday, June 16, and that the town needed the preliminary and detailed designs as soon as possible. He explained that the next step in the process will be presenting the plans to local business and community groups, and getting their input on the designs.

“This is where we’re headed,” Mr. Zappone said. “This is not where we’re ending up.”

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