When the new bridge over the Wallkill River opened last year with an expansive sidewalk for pedestrians to walk along the span, a small three-quarter acre parcel of land was left undeveloped next to the bridge. With an aim to beautify the area for the benefit of the community, the local chapter of the Lions Club has approached the Town of Shawangunk about turning the empty land into a small public park area.
At the Town Board’s April 4 meeting, Ulster County Legislator Ken Ronk updated the council on his efforts to facilitate the transfer of the property from the county to the town so that the plot of land could be transformed into a park space with a small patio area with picnic tables. “Issue number one is making the parcel safe,” Ronk told the board. “Because right now there’s nothing but a couple of trees, one large tree, from stopping a car from driving off the road and into the river. The county is not interested in retaining ownership of the property. The biggest issue that we have as a county is that we have 20 towns, three villages and a city, so we can’t operate a third of an acre park in each one of the towns. But what we can do is that it’s a tax foreclosure property. It’s been on the tax sale several times, I believe it’s the third or fourth time it’s been offered for public sale, so we have the ability to offer it to the municipality free of charge.”
The county will deed the parcel to the town if the board approves the plan, and Ronk said he’s working with the office of former County Executive Mike Hein to install a guardrail with an opening near the site, which would allow pedestrian access. There would be no official parking spaces at the site. “When they built the bridge, they left a pile of dirt there and it’s kind of messy, so the Lions Club got this idea to clean it up,” Town Supervisor John Valk said of the proposal. “They found out that the county owns it for unpaid taxes. They have an idea about making it a nice place to sit because we have that beautiful sidewalk that goes across the bridge and this would let people enjoy it.”
Approximately three years after the Shawangunk Main Street Revitalization Committee launched a fundraising campaign to purchase an old-fashioned community post clock for the hamlet, the effort is in its final stages. Organizer Richard Barnhart reported to the board during last Thursday’s meeting that the group has now raised 96 percent of the $30,000 needed to buy, install and maintain the digital clock. “This has been carrying on for three years and we’d really like to wrap it up and get it done,” Barnhart said. “We put a final push on to contact people and businesses who might want to invest so that we can get this thing cast and produced so we can get it installed.”
The group needs $25,000 to purchase the clock, which includes flourishes like the ability to play holiday-themed music, but will raise additional funds for improvements to the area of the rail trail where the clock will be set up. “We hope to collect more than that for the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the clock,” Barnhart said. The Fair-Rite Products Corporation, Walden Savings Bank and Wallkill Valley Federal Savings and Loan have all donated $5,000 apiece to the project, and Barnhart noted that the organization had raised $2,600 over the past week in donations for the project.
The group hopes to have the clock, which was funded totally by private donations, up and running in time for Weekend of Wallkill in September. “It’s something that people have donated to three years ago and they’re wondering when it’s going to happen,” Valk said. “It’s something that was spearheaded by the residents, not by the town. It’ll clean up the head of the rail trail a little bit. The sign there is very dilapidated, so it’ll breathe new life into the head of the rail trail.”