The City of Oneonta handled the planning and implementation of park improvements. Neahwa, Huntington and Wilber Parks all have upgrades in progress.
In Neahwa, electrical upgrades are underway, renovations to repair water damage at Damaschke Field will begin this month, and a ¾-mile multi-use bike path will be paved this summer.
Outdoor electrical boxes are currently installed on poles in the central part of Neahwa Park between Hodges Pond and the caboose. These outlets connected by underground lines will make it easy to set up many special events, so food vendors, musicians and holiday light displays will have places to plug in. “The metro is almost finished, we are waiting for the signs,” said Gino Huggins. , senior civil engineer of the city. The project will be finished this summer, but may not be in time for summer events, depending on when materials are delivered.
A broken pipe at Damaschke Field in early April caused extensive damage to the concession stand and an adjacent office. The city has filed an insurance claim, which will pay for repair costs of $50,000 to $100,000, less the city’s $25,000 deductible, Public Works Director Chris Yacobucci said Tuesday. “We hope the repairs will be done before the start of the regular season for the Outlaws, but we’re going to be tight,” he said. The Oneonta Outlaws’ first game is scheduled for June 4.
The Mill Race Creek Trail in Neahwa Park will create a paved asphalt trail to connect from the River Street entrance to the park along the creek, through Catella Park to the Lettis Highway at Exit 15 of Interstate 88. Facilities will include signage, crosswalks, wastebaskets and concrete. pads for future benches, but not the benches themselves.
Community members and organizations will have the opportunity to sponsor benches once the trail is completed. The cost of donating a bench ranges from $1,500 to $2,000 and includes a personalized memorial plaque, Huggins said. “They match our existing benches that you see all along Main Street.”
The trail project is going to tender this week and should be ready for city council approval next week if everything falls into place, Huggins said. Work should begin in June and last less than 75 days.
The trail project has a budget of $150,000, based on fall 2021 estimates, but construction costs keep rising. “The price has gone crazy. Pipe prices are hitting us hard, and asphalt, there’s an escalator on that,” Huggins said. “Buying the same pipe two years ago would have cost half or even less.”
Improvements to Neahwa Park are largely funded by a portion of the $713,000 the city received through federal assistance from the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021. The Mill Race Trail, which is a segment of the Oneonta Susquehanna Greenway, also received a $50,000 donation from the Future for Oneonta Foundation.
In Huntington Park, work has resumed on a complete overhaul of the park. Last week, trees were removed from a steep hill next to the Huntington Memorial Library and the slope was leveled to create a toboggan hill with a viewpoint at the top. On May 6, at the end of the working day, builder Dan Peterson and excavator Cody Renwick were enjoying the new view of downtown they had cleared. This week, contractors from Renwick Excavating are pouring curbs on a new oval path and have laid the foundation for a hilltop spot at the viewpoint. New energy-efficient LED streetlights are being installed that mimic historic streetlights on Main Street.
Plans for the second phase of the park’s redesign “include the hillside run and children’s play area, green theater, picnic area, ADA trails and additional plantings,” says an update on the library’s web page. “It’s complicated and slow, but it’s worth it!”
The library received a $500,000 grant from the State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation for the work. Once state authorities approve the documents, the library will move forward with the search for a landscape architect to finalize the design.
No major projects are currently planned for Wilber Park, as the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission reviews the results of a public opinion survey of existing facilities and new developments. The information gathered will be used to develop a master plan for the park and will help the commission prioritize improvements.
However, two small projects are moving forward. A second “little free library”—a free-standing structure with enclosed shelves where people can swap books—is being built near the Center Street end of the park. The structure is designed to resemble a locomotive, to honor Oneonta’s railroad past, Huggins said. It will be maintained by volunteers. A small free library already exists in the lower part of the park.
Another project is called Telephone in the Wind. An old-fashioned rotary phone will be mounted on a pole in a quiet location behind a large tree on the lower level of Wilber Park by the pool. “It’s kind of a private place for people to go and talk to their loved ones who have passed away,” Yacobucci said.
The idea came from a similar art installation in a park in Olympia, Washington. “It gives you the privacy to say what you need to say,” Corey Dembeck, a writer who created the Washington project, told a Seattle TV station in January. “You think about things, but if you can’t tell someone else about them, you’ll never say them out loud.”
Mike Forster Rothbart, editor, can be reached at [email protected] or 607-441-7213. Follow him @DS_MikeFR on Twitter.