On Monday, Jan. 28, the Westchester County Board of Legislators passed two bond acts totaling more than $8 million for repairs and renovations at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.
The acts were passed unanimously and with bipartisan approval, said BOL Majority Leader Peter Harckham, whose District 2 includes Katonah and Lewisboro.
“This represents a significant investment into the park by both the board of legislators and the administration,” Mr. Harckham said. “Ward Pound Ridge is one of the jewels of the county park system and one of the few parks solely dedicated to biodiversity and the protection of the habitat.”
Where the money goes
The bond acts were separated into two distinct portions, said Peter Tartaglia, deputy commissioner for the Westchester County Parks Department. Roughly half of the money will be spent on site improvements to the reservation’s infrastructure, including a major overhaul of the badly deteriorated Reservation Road and extensive drainage and storm water controls.
“What we need the most is repaving,” Mr. Tartaglia said. “We get a lot of complaints, especially about the main road.”
This will most likely be the first and most noticeable improvement to the park, as the park has received numerous complaints for years about the condition of the main entrance, Mr. Tartaglia said.
The road leading into the reservation is so deteriorated, Mr. Harckham said, that visitors use alternative routes and parking, creating public safety and traffic issues for neighboring residents.
“Everybody knows how bad that road is coming into the reservation,” he said. “Not everybody uses the lean-to shelters or the buildings, but everyone who goes into that park needs to come down Reservation Road.”
But the repaving will be a large undertaking that should not be underestimated, Mr. Tartaglia said.
“People think you just repave, but it is not that simple,” he said. “The road may be elevated and the storm drainage has to be done appropriately.”
The repairs at the reservation have been a work in progress for more than five years as part of a five-year capital project plan.
The money was not taken directly out of the budget because it would have had a severe impact on the budget, Mr. Harckham said.
“For this type of thing you have to take it out of the capital budget,” he said. “You don’t want repairs of this magnitude coming out of the operating budget. You want to keep debt payments constant; that is why you need to plan on five-year cycles. This is a demonstration of how government should work in a fiscally responsible way.”
Since the repairs’ initial planning five years ago, the Department of Environmental Protection has passed new enhanced storm water control requirements, specifically the Clean Water Act, which have increased the amount of work and specialized design required for the project, Mr. Harckham said.
“It is not a simple repaving job,” he said. “The reservation sits right in the Cross River next to the Cross River Reservoir, and there are many environmental and drainage requirements.”
The remaining half of the $8 million will be spent on building restorations for park facilities and amenities such as the lean-to camping sites, visitor center, park office building, maple sugaring house, and Michigan Road barn, Mr. Tartaglia said.
“These are sorely needed,” he said. “It is something we have wanted to do for a long time and we need to do. This is our largest park and focal point in our department.”
The designs for the renovations and repairs being done by the Westchester County Department of Public Works are currently estimated to be 70% to 90% complete, Mr. Tartaglia said.
With the bidding of contracts still needing to be done following the design phase, he conservatively projects repairs to begin in the fall. He added that with the contracts come more jobs in the construction field, an added benefit of the repairs.
Mr. Harckham was slightly more optimistic and said construction should begin this summer.
With the county park system generating millions of dollars a year for Westchester’s economy, he is eager to see the park receive the face lift, he said.
“The county has to stay on top of infrastructure and maintenance,” Mr. Harckham said. “The park system makes Westchester a special place to live and work, and we are glad we could get it done.”