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Shore thing! Ridgites brainstorm ideas for Shore Road Park reboot

Sky’s the limit: Sisters Susan and Diana Frances brainstormed ideas for the Shore Road Park redesign with fellow Bay Ridgites and Parks Department workers at a meeting on April 27.
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They sowed the seeds of a new park design.

Bay Ridgites brainstormed features and programs they’d like to see in the multi-million-dollar reboot of Shore Road Park at a meeting on April 27. Local conservationists and Parks Department workers poured over maps of the park at Fort Hamilton High School and put their heads together to develop a wish list. This is the first step in a long journey to revitalize the sprawling parkland, said the Parks Department’s borough commissioner.

“The very first step is to build this road map, this conceptual plan of all of Shore Road Park,” said Martin Maher. “We’re going to take your concepts and those are going to inform the design.”

The project — dubbed the “Shore Line,” after Manhattan’s famed High Line park — was dreamed up by volunteer group the Shore Road Parks Conservancy who has hired environmental planners Nelson, Pope, and Voorhies to help them rethink the two-mile stretch of parkland.

The city approved the massive undertaking in March and has given the conservancy special status to directly hire a contractor — in an attempt to speed up the typically sluggish procurement process.

Landscape architects initially aimed to break ground by 2018, but they now want to take more time, to ensure they soak up as much community input as they can before finalizing a design, budget, and hard timeline, according to one landscape ecologist. In fact, it make take a very long time to do everything they hope to achieve, he said

“We’re hoping to get as much information from you as possible,” said Rusty Schmidt, with Nelson, Pope, and Voorhies, “then think through all of that and pull together a complete, comprehensive plan for the entire park that we can work on for hopefully shorter than 20 years, but that might be the realistic goal to get this park up to what we all want it to be.”

Ridgites combed through aerial maps of the park in six teams, slapping on Post-Its with scribbled suggestions and using color-coded markers to point out must-haves — such as brand-new playgrounds, sports fields, and recreation centers. They also suggested less vital but still nifty features such as an ice rink, skate park, and even a pie-in-the-sky idea of a tram over the park.

The prospect of a total overhaul of Shore Road Park driven by community feedback is tantalizing, but some locals say they will believe it when they see it.

“It’s a great idea if they take us seriously,” said Bay Ridgite Susan Frances with the Owl’s Head Park Horticulture Group, who came to the brainstorming session with her sister. “It’s a long-term project, so I do worry that they’ll keep throwing money at it without accomplishing anything.”

Others couldn’t contain their enthusiasm at the thought of a lush landscape brimming with ecological features.

“I’m most excited for pollination gardens. There’s a great opportunity for rain gardens too, especially because of how the park curves,” said Michelle Delphin, a junior at Oregon State University who is studying urban forestry and hopes to one day work for the Parks Department. “There’s a lot that can be done.”

Landscape ecologists will spend the next few months mining the input before beginning the approval process and touching base with Community Board 10.

For those who couldn’t make it to the meeting, or who have a fresh thought they’d like to share with parks designers, Nelson, Pope, and Voorhies is accepting e-mailed suggestions for the next two weeks at rschmidt@nelsonpopevoorhies.com.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 12:25 pm, May 5, 2017
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