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Memorial Park Footbridge Is 1st Step In Future Hudson River Pathway

by Maddie McCann and Dave Zornow

Where some see a short footbridge over a tidal inlet, Nyack Parks Commissioner Jim Willcox sees something more significant. “In Nyack parks’ terms, it’s almost like the Middle East finally coming to an agreement,” he says. Speaking as both the Chairman of the Nyack Parks Commission and a board member of the Nyack Park Conservancy, Willcox says the hope of building a bridge to connect Memorial Park to the Nyack Marina often seemed like a lost cause. But after nearly 15 years of negotiations, community forums, and fundraising, it’s finally being built—a crucial next step in the multi-decade effort to revitalize Nyack’s Memorial Park and to protect the river from runoff. Footbridge construction is expected to be completed by June.

Memorial Park Footbridge B4 constructionThe Village of Nyack received a $195,000 from the New NY Bridge Project’s Waterfront Revitalization Program, which will be used to cover almost a third of the project’s $700,000 cost. The remaining funds will be raised by issuing a municipal bond.

In the next few weeks, a barge will bring materials to the park to begin construction. Piles will be driven into the area between the park and marina parking lot, and then prefabbed sections of the bridge will be installed on top.

The effort to redevelop the park has been in the works since 2005, when former Mayor Jen White, Bert Hughes, and Jerry Donnellan founded the Nyack Park Conservancy. They were inspired to create the nonprofit “because Memorial Park was tired,” White says.

As a member of the village’s parks commission, White was frustrated by the limited municipal funding available for park improvements. Using the 501c3 Nyack Park Conservancy to apply for grants, the group received funding from Scenic Hudson to hire respected landscape architecture firm Quennell Rothschild to create a comprehensive master plan for Memorial Park. The village has been steadily implementing these recommendations in the master plan over the past decade.

The design aims to beautify the park, but also to make it more accessible, resilient to storms, and environmentally friendly. For example, the basketball court is water permeable. These new amenities, despite being approved by the village and well-received by the community, still took time to implement.

Inlet over which the footbridge will be built. Photo Credit: Dave Zornow, Jan 2018

The inlet over which the bridge will span is privately owned. The village had been in talks with the owner since the formation of the Parks Conservancy and the two parties only recently came to an agreement. The terms of the agreement included moving the bridge closer to the river than it was in the original design; using wood reinforced with steel to mitigate noise; and building a flat crossing to minimize obstruction of the owner’s view of the water. The owner will be paid $50,000 in exchange for use of their property.

From the Parks Commission’s perspective, the footbridge creates another point of entry to the park, which is now limited to those who are able to walk in or secure one of its few parking spots. “For a lot of people, Memorial Park is their waterfront access in the village,” says Willcox. “So it’s really important to us that they’re able to get there.”

What’s Next

Memorial Park plan, 2014.

After the bridge is installed, the village will revisit implementation of the original Quennell Rothschild park master plan, which calls for the removal of most of the parking in Memorial Park, except for a number of handicapped spaces. As part of that plan, parking would be relocated to the marina, and the asphalt would be replaced by grass and a walking path along the waterfront.

Although Memorial Park is a popular destination for many people to park and lunch, there are sound environmental reasons to restrict parking to the adjacent marina lot.

Despite Nyack’s anti-idling ordinance, park visitors like to look at the Hudson from their cars while their engines are running. “That’s definitely not a good thing when you have other people engaged in activities around those cars that are just spewing  fumes,” Willcox says.

And pavement next to a body of water exacerbates pollution. Jeff Anzevino, Land Use Advocacy Director at Scenic Hudson, says that “stormwater runoff, also known as nonpoint source pollution, is the biggest water quality issue we have now on the Hudson River.” The chemicals that cars leak get swept into the river instead of  percolating into the ground. “Relocating parking farther away from the river minimizes the effect stormwater runoff has on our water resources.”

“It’s sort of weird that we have a waterfront park and the people who have the best view of the river are cars,” adds Willcox.

There is no projected timeline for the parking component of this project yet—the funds are not available, and since the marina is a more active spot than it was when the master plan was originally drawn up, an updated survey will be needed to determine whether there will be sufficient space in the marina lot to accommodate all traffic.

“Now that the bridge has been [finalized] we can fight about the parking,” Willcox says. “And Nyack loves to fight about parking.”

Looking Ahead

The footbridge and parking plan are part of a long term vision of an interconnected waterfront. When the comprehensive master plan was originally being drawn up, White discovered through archival research that a similar plan had been first considered in the 1950s. “When we started to look back at other drawings of the waterfront, there were at least three other drawings dating back 20, 40, 60 years that included that exact idea,” she says.

As part of the Nyack’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, the footbridge will be a link in a future Hudson River path which will run from Memorial Park to the Nyack Boat Club. The completed pathway will include landscaping, lighting, benches, water fountains, and wayfinding signage. The project is being funded in-part by a $401,700 grant of from the NYS Department of State.

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