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October 27, 2016
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Narrowsburg waterfront revitalization project unveiled; residents mostly express support

The proposed River Walk in Narrowsburg features a much enlarged Veterans Park with a new shelter and extended overlook areas. There is also a linear park with a walkway running from Veterans Park, under the bridge that crosses the Upper Delaware River, and back up to an expanded deck on Main Street. Two sets of ramps and steps would give pedestrians access to the linear park and walkway.

The proposed project meant to revitalize the waterfront in the hamlet is no longer called an esplanade. The project now includes what is called a river walk, which would be created within a “linear park.”

Larry Boudreau, director of land development for the Chazen Companies, which created the proposed design for the project, explained at a public hearing on November 28 that the project is separated into four phases, all of which could be created independently of the others.

Phase one involves the overlook deck on Main Street, which would be expanded from 750 square feet (sq. ft.) to 1,180 sq. ft., primarily by expanding the deck surface out to the curb, rather than ending it at the sidewalk. The railing would be changed to a “transparent rail system,” to allow better visibility. Ramps would be built to allow pedestrians to walk down to a linear park below the deck.

Another phase would involve Veterans Park, which would be expanded from 650 sq. ft. to 1,200 sq. ft., and would have greatly enhanced viewing areas. The gazebo would remain in place and a new 600-sq.-ft. covered structure would be built for public events.

A third phase of the project is the space from the bridge south to the edge of the first commercial building, which is where the linear park and walkway would begin. There would also be ramps from Main Street to the park and a public restroom.

The fourth phase would be the linear park and walkway or river walk behind the four commercial buildings on Main Street.

It was that last phase that most concerned council person-elect Ned Lang, who recently won his election with a campaign that vilified the council for spending some taxpayer money on the engineering and design study for the project. He said, “Don’t you dare use our money to improve the private property of other people in this town that doesn’t benefit the town taxpayer base as a whole. That’s wrong; it’s un-American as far as I’m concerned.”

He also said he was “on board” with the project if the funds could be found to build it, but that parking was a concern. Also he wanted to know how much taxpayers would have to pay to maintain the river walk.

However, 16 of the 20 speakers expressed unreserved support for the project. Joe Levine, an architect who assisted with the design, said the project “would provide everyone in Narrowsburg and the region with their own piece of riverfront property.” He then said that the fact that it has to be maintained should not be a reason to not enthusiastically support it. He also said that the three owners of the private property are willing to grant their property to a public use, and that might not be the case in the future.

Helen Budrock, the community planner for Sullivan Renaissance, said the organization supports the project because, “Community parks not only provide aesthetic, recreational benefits to communities, but they also are a source of positive economic benefits as well. The development of downtown parks and trails, such as this proposed project, has proven in other communities to enhance property values, increase municipal revenues.”

Laurie Ramie, executive director of the Upper Delaware Council, said she supports the plan. She said, “This is a great way to promote public access to the river, which is a great component of the River Management Plan, which we uphold.”

Stephen Stuart, in his capacity as a member of the Narrowsburg Fire Department, said the private buildings in question represented perhaps the greatest fire danger in the town because of limited access. He said the project would allow access to the rear of the buildings should an emergency occur, and he also said standpipes should be included in the project to aid with firefighting efforts.

The project has been under consideration by town officials on and off for at least 20 years, and raising the money to pay for it remains a challenge. The estimated range of cost is anywhere from $1 million to $2.5 million, depending on choices made, such as the addition of a public rest room.

Supervisor Carol Wingert has said that local taxpayer money will not be used to pay for any of the construction. And several people connected with the project have said that significant grant money and other funding is available for this type of project.