Riverside and Flanders community members attended a presentation and discussion about the design of the Riverside Maritime Trail Park and Wetland Restoration project along the Peconic River and weighed in with their ideas Monday night during the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association monthly meeting.
The goal of the meeting was to provide community input that can be incorporated into the design of concept plans for the 14-acre Suffolk county-owned park located in Riverside. Landscape architects have to present 90 percent finished concept plans to the Southampton Town Board in a work session scheduled for Nov. 15.
“We are very grateful for the people coming out through the weather,” FRNCA president Ron Fisher said. “It’s important we go through this process and we prioritize open spaces and facilities for people to enjoy the development that’s coming.”
Town consultants Araiys Design, a Southampton-based landscape architecture firm, presented a detailed site analysis and explained that the property can only be used for “passive recreation,” meaning no ball fields, amphitheaters, or concession stands.
After the presentation, residents were able to provide their input by reviewing a handout provided by Araiys Design, where they drew and wrote suggested ideas. These were collected by the firm at the end of the meeting.
“This is a bottom-up design, rather than top down. Our end goal is to enrich the community,” Araiys Design senior landscape architect Steve Nieroda said.
Main design elements being considered for the design are access to the water and a 1.6 mile promenade that would go from Peconic Avenue towards the east. A second trail that would go from south to north, with an entrance on Old Quogue Road is also being reviewed.
Residents also suggested and asked about parking, wooden platforms, fishing platforms, overlooks, picnic tables, kayak/canoe launches, fitness trails, rest stations, bike paths, nature education, game tables, lighting and dog parks among other ideas.
Several members of the audience requested that the landscape architecture firm also considered in their design an allowance for a future bridge between the Riverside park and Riverhead, which would link the two Towns. FRNCA Economic Development Chairman Vince Taldone said that such bridge would have a cost of around $4 million.
Northampton resident Chris Sheldon, who brought his own board with ideas written on it, said that to him one of the most important things was to connect Riverhead to Riverside.
Home to the Peconic Estuary — one of only 28 estuaries of national significance in the entire country — the park was bought in 2011 by Suffolk County with funds from the Suffolk County Drinking Water Protection Program as an environmentally sensitive parcel that needs to be preserved as open space.
County officials and landscape architects said that any type of development would negatively affect the Peconic River as well as the Peconic Bay with potential sanitary system impacts, and other environmental problems. In order to avoid that, the park can only be used for “passive recreation.”
Restoration of 1.3 acres of wetlands along the Peconic River as well as preservation of native species and plants is also a key aspect of the project.
“It is a parcel centrally located to two towns and it’s the perfect fit for connecting the downtown revitalization we are looking to do along the waterfront, as well as being able to enjoy the river and nature, it’s a win-win for both sides” Suffolk County Parks Commissioner Philip Berdolt said.
Berdolt added that the county wants to make sure that the property is available to all county residents and that there won’t be parking permits for parking.
The park design will also include the results of a community health survey that has been ordered with the purpose of determining people’s health and wellness habits and how to improve them, as well as the kind of recreation residents want to see at the park, Riverside Rediscovered community liaison Siris Barrios said.
The survey will be conducted during the next few weeks and will help form an “evidence-based concept plan,” Barrios said.
Funding for the survey and concept plans comes from a $50,000 grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation awarded to FRNCA, as well as an additional $14,000 provided by the Town of Southampton, which will also pay for the construction and maintenance of the park.
Town officials said that another consultant will be hired for the construction plans. FRNCA applied for a $100,000 DEC grant in July to pay for the construction plans. These plans will determine the final cost for the construction of the project.
Town officials said that before a final concept plan is approved and the project moves into the bidding process and construction phase, it will be able to be further tweaked by the community if necessary.