By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
COEYMANS — The town of Coeymans made major improvements to two of its parks in 2021, and more upgrades are on the way, as the community looks to give its outdoor recreational facilities a facelift.
The projects create a more welcoming atmosphere for families and visitors looking for some outdoor fun.
Riverfront Park in the hamlet and Joralemon Park in Coeymans Hollow saw significant construction with new tennis and basketball courts, and newly paved parking areas in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and more improvements are on the way in 2022, Town Supervisor George McHugh said.
The projects’ importance was highlighted by the virus outbreak that sent residents outdoors for an escape from the shutdowns and for socially distanced fun throughout the pandemic.
“The COVID pandemic certainly put a spotlight on the importance of our parks, especially since people were looking for things to do outdoors in a socially distanced manner,” McHugh said. “So we took a hard look at our parks — Joralemon Park and Riverfront Park.”
The Coeymans Hollow park, in particular, had not seen work in many years.
“Especially in Joralemon Park, it hadn’t really been updated or improved upon for about 40 years,” McHugh said. “The tennis courts were in rough shape, there was no basketball court, there was no paving in the driveway.”
Things weren’t much better in some ways at the park in the hamlet.
“Down at Riverfront Park, we looked at the basketball court that was starting to degrade and crack and we decided as a town board to sink some resources into both of these parks,” McHugh said.
Over the summer of 2021, the first phase of work was completed with renovations to amenities at both parks.
“We completely renovated the Riverfront Park basketball court — we took down the hoops, put in new hoops, had the entire surface resurfaced and striped, and got that back where it needed to be,” the town supervisor said. “At Joralemon Park, we constructed a brand-new basketball court and then completely resurfaced the tennis courts and paved the parking lot as well as the driveway going into the pavilion.”
In 2022, more work will be done, including bathroom facilities for both parks. Planning has already been done and work is expected to begin in April.
These are no portable toilets — they will be fully functional permanent bathrooms, which neither park has ever had.
“This year we also started the design work for a bathroom facility out at Joralemon Park, which we plan on breaking ground on April 1, and we also have plans for a permanent lavatory facility at Riverfront Park, breaking ground there about the same time,” McHugh said. “The construction designs and drawings are in and engineered and ready to go, and funded as well.”
The lavatory project will come at no cost to the town. Rather, the town will utilize federal funds granted to the municipality through the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which was granted to communities to help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the eligible uses for the funds is certain types of infrastructure improvements.
“Initially, we were going to use the town’s fund balance, but then we got the ARPA money and it was approved because bathrooms are sanitary [facilities], so it fit ARPA’s requirements,” McHugh said. “We will use some of the ARPA money, not all of it. We got about $400,000 in ARPA and will need maybe $100,000 of that for the bathrooms at Joralemon and Riverfront parks.”
Local companies also made considerable donations to the park renovation projects, he added. LafargeHolcim offered to donate the concrete for the project, and Carver Companies will complete the site work for free.
In addition to the federal funds, the town in 2021 received $212,000 from the state through a settlement with LafargeHolcim from a long-standing legal case.
“There was about a 15-year-long environmental justice case with Lafarge regarding stormwater runoff,” McHugh said. “As part of the settlement, they fined Lafarge $850,000 — $425,000 to the state and $425,000 to the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). Out of the state’s share, they gave us $212,000, to be used for stormwater mitigation for the Hudson.”
The town used that money as seed money to successfully apply for a larger grant from the Environmental Facilities Corporation, also designated for park improvements.
“The $212,000 has to be used for Riverfront Park, but we were also able to use it as our matching funds to apply for a million-dollar grant, which we received from DEC,” McHugh said. “So now we have the million, plus the $212,000, but all of that money has to go into Riverfront Park and the hamlet to mitigate stormwater into the Hudson.”
The $1.2 million will be used for stormwater improvements to prevent runoff of stormwater into the river, town grant writer Nicole Ambrosio said.
“Those renovations will stop a lot of the surface water [from entering the river],” Ambrosio said. “It was a Green Innovation Grant, so the water that comes down off the street — because the park is below [street level] — won’t go into the Hudson River. It will be redone with paved parking and the planting of trees. I think it will really look much nicer down there so when you have festivals, it will be a little safer.”
Riverfront Park annually plays host to a number of community events, including the town Christmas tree lighting in December and the Coeymans Riverfest in September, as well as Evenings on the Green concerts and the weekly farmers market, both in the summer, among many other events and activities.
In addition to green projects to prevent stormwater runoff into the river, the project will also include resurfacing the parking lot, adding new lights and a new parking area on Westerlo Street, McHugh said. Construction is expected to begin in April 2022.
Renovations at both parks were spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, which put a focus on areas of the community in need of improvement, McHugh said.
“COVID spotlighted two major weaknesses in our town. Our parks were not up to snuff. They were not at a place we wanted to be. They were not neglected, but no resources had been put into those parks for decades,” the town supervisor said. “When families are looking for something to do and they have to do it outdoors and socially distanced, they look to the parks. I looked at other towns around us and their parks looked a lot better than ours. I think the COVID pandemic really put the spotlight on that.”
The second issue the pandemic highlighted was the lack of reliable broadband in some areas of the town, particularly Coeymans Hollow and Alcove, McHugh said. Some of the federal ARPA money will be used to beef up broadband access in the town, he added.
The renovated parks will bring a sense of both community and pride to the town, he said.
“You should be proud of your parks as a town and I don’t think we were, before,” McHugh said. “Now, I think that we have something to be proud of. These are natural resources that we should be proud of and we should make sure our residents and families can enjoy them.”