Designs Jell for Flint Park Ball Fields & Environmental Area
by Judy Silberstein
(March 30, 2005) As envisioned by the Village of Larchmont's park consultants, visitors to a nature site behind Flint Park would stroll through a meadow, observe the water and wildlife from two or three overlooks and hike down a trailway that would run behind an enhanced ball field area. Landscape architect John Imbiano (from the firm of Imbiano & Quigley) and park planner Ron Tetelman (with Eberlin & Eberlin) presented these concepts on Tuesday, March 29 at a work session that included members of the Larchmont Village Board and representatives from other Village committees that have been working on plans for the park since 2002. In November, 2004, the board contracted with the two firms to develop specific plans and supervise implementation of the park project.
Environmental Plan - " Like Rye Marshlands"
The environmental area scheme met with enthusiastic support from all of the committee members, most of whom were seeing the detailed plans for the first time. "This was neat stuff," said Mayor Ken Bialo. "He made it an elegant plan with a minimum of fuss," said Trustee Marlene Kolbert. "I thought he did an outstanding job."
In an area stretching along the back of the park for approximately 700 feet with a width of 75 to 100 feet between the ball fields and an inlet of the Long Island Sound, Mr. Imbiano would develop a number of different mini-environments. He offered Rye Marshlands, with its meadow and more diverse nature trails as a model.
He embraced use of recycled material throughout the project, including cement from the old sidewalks being ripped up in the Boston Post Road. The cement could be ground up and used as the base for the trails. The overlooks could also be constructed from recycled materials. Dead but stable trees could be kept in place to attract birds and retain the natural look.
Another design theme was the use of earth forms - literally dirt mounded or shaped - to create the feel of a rolling meadow, to hide the leaf collection depot and to keep the ball fields out of sight of those enjoying the nature areas. By lowering the grade – removing debris and fill – then raising it back again in places, he could lay a path that will undulate beside the water. Mr. Imbiano would like to retain some of the tall phragmite reeds at one end of the trail."It would be very cool to walk along the trail and enter into a very different world," he explained.
Plantings would favor native species: the meadow would be switch grass, a hardy native that does well in wet or dry conditions, functions as a filtering plant, and also keeps geese from swooping in from the water. Shade would come from white oaks, natural to the tidal area. Flowering bushes would provide both color and support for more birds.
"These are some lovely ideas -- an Olmstead kind of feel," said Catherine Wachs, a naturalist with the Sheldrake Environmental Center.
Mr. Imbiano received the committee's approval to proceed with developing the detailed construction drawings needed to bring his vision another step closer to reality.
Ball Fields - Drainage a Necessity
number of other aspects including: the
The ball field plans are further along, having already reaching the construction drawing stage. The plans have come along way since January of 2003 when Monroe Eberlin unfurled his first drawings.(See: Preliminary Plans for Flint Park: More Parking, Fields & Water Access) The committee is continuing to tweak details of field placement to maximize the size of both the playing area and the environmental space. The group also asked Mr. Tetelman to rethink a aesthetics and effectiveness of protective fencing (to keep foul balls from invading the nature area); the water drainage system that will be laid under the fields to be sure the water finds an appropriately sized outlet and fertilizer run-off is properly handled; and other details.
Drainage was on everyone's mind as area playing fields were closed down for the week (and the critical weekend game period) following Monday's steady heavy rains that dropped over two inches of rain on Sound Shore neighborhoods. Would the new system be able to keep fields open? A combination of new grading, improved soil and grass, and the new drainage and irrigation system would definitely keep the fields healthier and open, said Mr. Tetelman -- though maybe not after conditions as extreme as this week's storm.
Mr. Tetelman left the meeting with a list of items to research and changes to incorporate into his drawings.
The committee now has a clear vision of what it would like to see for the area, but the exact costs and financing are yet to be nailed down. Asked to give a "finger in the air" estimate of costs for the environmental area, Mr. Imbiano suggested $350,000 to $500,000. Mr. Tetelman's latest budget figures, submitted with his "60% of completion" drawings, were around $850,000 to $900,000 not including fees for the consultants and construction managers.
These estimates go beyond the budget and will need to be "squashed" according to Mayor Bialo. Last summer the Village Board voted to authorize the sale of $1.1 million in bonds to support the project, however, at the time Mayor Bialo was expecting that more than half of that sum would be defrayed by grants and by private donations. (See: Larchmont Prepares for $3.2 Million Makeover:Bonds Will Fund 6 Major Capital Improvements). In 2002, the Village received a $120,050 grant from the Environmental Protection Fund and has applied for additional state and federal grants that the mayor is optimistic about getting. (See: $120,000 Grant for Flint Park)
A committee headed by Phil Johanson is preparing a brochure to kick-off a fundraising campaign later this spring. When asked about goals, Mr. Johanson estimated the group will try to raise $300,000 to $400,000 by the end of the year.
Another uncertainty is how quickly the project can start-up, and how long it would be before the sports teams can use the new fields. In a community where demand already exceeds available field space, taking fields out of service creates further problems. "I'm hoping that we'll get into bidding and start work by the end of the soccer season," said Mayor Bialo. Other committee members though it would be longer. Mr. Tetelman estimated the fields would be out of service for at least nine months if sod is used, at an additional cost of approximately $40,000. Using seed would keep the fields out of play for another nine months.