Shawangunk’s fields and pavilions are set to reopen on July 6—with conditions—following last week’s town board meeting.
Councilman Adrian Dewitt proposed the change, explaining that summer camps are due to be allowed on that date as the region reopens in the wake of COVID-19.
“I think that anybody that reserves a field should supply us with a plan of what they’re doing—they’re going to distance the parents and they’re going to wear masks to the field—so that we have a plan in place,” said Councilman Dewitt.
He advised the board that various groups would like to use the fields to practice, in anticipation of sports like baseball and soccer returning in the fall.
Town Clerk Jane Rascoe said she is receiving calls every day about using the town’s fields and pavilions and there are “a lot of people on hold” as the town pushed their reservations due to the pandemic.
Supervisor John Valk said that New York City was set to reopen their playgrounds.
“That I don’t recommend that we do,” said Councilman Dewitt. “We have no way to sanitize them. Kids are going to touch them and put their fingers in their mouth. That would be the last thing that I would consider.”
Councilman Matt Watkins disagreed, saying the town should open the playgrounds.
“I draw the line on this,” said Councilman Watkins. “If the parents want their children to play, they should have the right to.”
The board voted, with the exception of Watkins, to keep the playgrounds closed, but to reopen use of the town’s fields, pavilions and bathrooms on July 6. Plans will need to be submitted outlining the steps each group will be taking to protect participants, such as wearing masks, in order to make a reservation.
Sal Patella of the Lions Club of Wallkill approached the board about several proposals for the town’s Popp Park, including the storage of a refrigerator in the men’s room at the pavilion, and a request that the town fill in potholes in the driveway with item 4.
The club also requested to install a shed or container behind the town’s pavilion for storage of items like signs, decorations and the grates they had manufactured for the barbecue pit, but promised they would store nothing that would attract pests. It would be up to 20 feet long and donated to the town.
“If the town was to approve that, we would purchase and place the container or the shed,” said Patella.
Councilman Brian Amthor stated he liked the aesthetics of a shed and Dewitt said that a container would “look kind of tacky.”
Patella stated that if the board chose to go with the container, the club would paint it and do landscaping to make it appealing. He pointed out that while a shed would look nicer, it ran the risk of rodents and vandalism, and a container would be easier to repaint.
However, they could store the refrigerator in the proposed shed, instead of the men’s room, making it more convenient for those using the pavilion. That would not be possible with a container.
Councilman Dewitt noted that rather than storing the barbecue grates in a shed or container, an outdoor rack could be installed, which can be locked. The grates and the refrigerator would then be available to anyone renting the pavilion from the town.
Agreeing that a shed would be better, the board asked Patella to provide them with a design for the Parks Committee to review.
Valk also mentioned getting a new sign for the pavilion, to alleviate public confusion.
“People have the understanding that they have to be a member of the club to use it, because of the sign saying Lions Pavilion,” said Valk. “So that’s always been an issue with me, personally.”
While originally constructed by the Lions Club, the pavilion was donated to the town and is open to the public, located in the town’s Popp Park. The supervisor noted that the town has put a lot of funding into the pavilion to address issues with the roof, poles and flooring, and the town built the bathrooms. However, the club maintains it, handling mowing and other items.
“It’s a partnership,” said Valk. “So the town should have equal time on that sign.”
After some discussion, the board suggested a new sign stating something like “Town of Shawangunk Pavilion, Popp Park, donated and maintained by the Lions Club of Wallkill.” The hope is that it would clear up public confusion about using the pavilion and give the club the credit they are due for their donation and ongoing efforts.
Patella said he would bring the proposal back to the club and figure out a way to work with the town on the issue.
Patella advised the board that they are also maintaining the landing and working on getting benches and possibly a picnic table. The board stated they would provide information for a concrete table that would require less maintenance and be low cost.
In the meantime, the club was scheduled to volunteer for cleanup on the Rail Trail on June 23 and he confirmed their previous approval for the use of a golf cart or ATV and promised the board that they would notify the police department ahead of time.
In other business, Valk advised the town board that the governor has issued an executive order regarding police reform which requires the town to convene a meeting of the police chief and stakeholders in the community to address items such as the police department’s use of force policy, implicit bias awareness training and many other issues. There is no funding attached to this initiative.
“Not that I’m saying it’s bad, but we have to talk to maybe the Ulster County Police Chiefs Association and coordinate, have something like a universal review of all policies,” said Supervisor Valk, adding that they would also have to do everything through the police department’s union. “Anything that goes contrary to the union could be grieved and we could get hauled into court.”
Councilman Robert Miller pointed out that the town has a police manual that covers some of the items raised in the governor’s proclamation, but the supervisor explained that the order calls for everything to be updated.
“We have to make it open to the public and we have to review it and change it,” said Valk, adding that he would speak with the town’s police chief and work on a plan.
Also on Thursday’s agenda was a revised 284 Agreement which would add Pleasant Avenue to the highway superintendent’s list of roads to be paved for the year and remove Denniston Road. The board agreed to table the agreement to their next meeting on July 16 to give them time to review the highway superintendent’s revisions.