News Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.
Results of a recent North Castle survey revealed last week that improving ballfields is the highest recreation priority that residents want to see officials address.
In the first formal survey conducted by the town’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Board in 12 years, residents also responded that there was a need for paved bike paths, more walking and hiking trails, improving the town pool and a dog park.
Although residents were forthright about the areas they want to see improved, Parks & Recreation Advisory Board Chairman Karl Hinrichs said the overall satisfaction level with recreation programs and park facilities was good.
“So, from the whole parks and recs, it’s kind of a mixed bag, it’s good and it’s bad and I think the areas where we had negative satisfaction are clear areas that are the low hanging fruit if we can take care of that,” Hinrichs said.
Hinrichs and fellow advisory board member Jeff Scott made a presentation to the Town Board last Wednesday regarding the 14-question survey. Conducted from Apr. 13 to May 25, it attracted 614 respondents, with each household allowed one response.
Results showed that there is a growing cohort of families in town that have multiple children who are four years old and under. The takeaway from that information is that town fields for various sports need to be in better condition to accommodate the demand as they reach elementary school age, Hinrichs said.
He said that the level of dissatisfaction with the soccer and baseball fields at Lombardi Park and IBM Community Park was somewhat unforeseen, although Hinrichs acknowledged that it’s been about 20 years since his children were involved in the town’s sports programs. Also making the dissatisfaction list were the lacrosse facilities at Community Park.
“I was really surprised just how strong this was with parents of children,” Hinrichs said of the fields. “We had good fields when I was doing travel soccer.”
There was also strong sentiment to create more pickleball courts, which the town is currently doing by converting some platform tennis surfaces. Major improvements to the town pool would have to wait until legal entanglements concerning the town’s ownership of the pool is sorted out by the state Attorney General’s office. The town approved purchasing the facility nearly five years ago from the organization that had previously refurbished and operated what was then known as the Anita Louise Ehrman Pool.
Facilities that had the greatest level of satisfaction were Wampus Brook Park in Armonk, the IBM dome and Hergenhan Recreation Center. The town’s after school programs and summer concert series were clearly the two most popular, although Hinrichs noted that all program categories, including the town summer camp, youth sports, pre-school programs and activities for adults and seniors were rated positively.
In a discussion that followed, board members grappled with how best to use the information that was provided to them in the survey. Councilman Matt Milim, the liaison to the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board, said residents were clear about the current condition of the fields but those improvements require a great amount of expertise to address properly.
Milim suggested that the board direct Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Matt Trainor to return within the next two months with several options that can be explored to start addressing some of the shortcomings.
“What I’m hoping he comes back to us with is here is a menu of options. If we want to fix fields, here are the three ways to fix fields and here’s how much I think it would cost,” Milim said.
Trainor said he already has potential solutions since he’s familiar with the town’s facilities.
Supervisor Michael Schiliro and Councilman Barbara DiGiacinto said that before moving forward, it is critical to receive feedback from the community since any projects.
“I think it’s important that we hear from our residents in all three hamlets, their reaction to the results of the survey, and I think we should be soliciting it, DiGiacinto said. “I just think it should be an agenda item, if not (in) September then next month.”
But Councilman Saleem Hussain said it’s the board’s responsibility to interpret the data from the survey and to prioritize the top projects.
Hinrichs said the advisory board can work with Trainor and return by September with several options about how best to proceed along with some rough cost estimates. The faster the town can move ahead the more advantageous it would be because of the wave of very young children who will begin playing sports in the next few years.
“I just don’t want the momentum to pause,” Hinrichs said. “I think my committee is very happy and impassioned about this and so we want to just try to keep any momentum that we can.”
Residents can view the power point with the entire survey results on the town’s website at https://northcastleny.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2709&meta_id=93188.
New Playground Equipment for Parks
Starting last Saturday, the Winkler Park Playground will be closed as the North Castle Parks and Recreation Departments prepares to start the town’s playground replacement project.
Trainor said personnel will start to remove the old equipment and prepare for the installation of the new items in early to mid-September. After Winkler Park, the town will move forward with removal of the playgrounds at IBM Community Park, Lombardi Park and the North Castle Community Center in North White Plains.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/