Renewed commitment to Diamond Hill Park?
Renewed commitment to Diamond Hill Park?
CUMBERLAND - It's been 18 years since the Town Council first adopted a master plan that identified far-reaching improvements to Diamond Hill Park.
Since then, an athletic complex has been installed with two multi-purpose fields, along with a softball and a baseball field.
But virtually all the other recommendations have been forgotten.
On Sept. 4, the council is expected to pick up where the 1995 council left off and weigh in on a new master plan for Diamond Hill Park, Resolution 13-37, that restates many of the same improvements called for then, during the administration of Mayor Edgar Alger III.
Updated by the Gifford Design Group of Cumberland, ideas include:
* Resurface the parking lot in phases as funds become available
* Install a playground
* Establish an attractive park entrance
* Maintain security access
* Improve the picnic area
* Consider a kayak dock in the north pond
* Improve the sledding slope
* Upgrade the first aid station
* Add signs to mark areas of the park and trails.
* Upgrade the old ski lodge to make it more comfortable for meetings.
Where the old and new plans disagree is over the stage area.
The 1995 plan calls for improving the pond that sits in front of the stage by adding a decorative spray fountain.
The 2013 plan wants it removed and replaced with a grassy spot for audiences to get closer to the stage, thereby encouraging more music concerts at the park, according to proponents.
This new plan, in fact, coincides with the town's application to the state Department of Environmental Management for permission to fill the pond.
It's a wetlands alteration permit request filed earlier this summer but expected to take at least several more months of state scrutiny.
Director of Planning and Community Development Kelley Morris was scheduled to present the new master plan at last week's Town Council meeting but was delayed because of a busy agenda. It's expected at the Sept. 4 meeting, but both the old and new are available now at http://bit.ly/15u4p1C and http://bit.ly/150cdEP
In 1995, the town had just acquired the park from the state. The master plan that was first devised noted "hundreds of citizens turned out for public meeting or otherwise provided input to the development of this master plan."
Making numerous references to the "deterioration of the existing park facilities," it goes on, "The town administration and Town Council are anxious to enhance the attractiveness of Cumberland to residents and visitors through improvement of its unique site." A price tag of $675,000 was attached to the list of renovations, including $350,000 for a new parking lot.
A revision in 1998 upped the investment estimate to $1.3 million.
The new plan doesn't attempt to affix dollar amounts, and town officials are counting on a piece of a recreation bond but mostly grants to fund improvements.
Morris will find some opposition at September's presentation.
Neighbors led by Chris Ratcliffe of Fisher Road are protesting that the pond should be retained as an asset. He argues for creating "a majestic park" on Diamond Hill Road that enjoys the protections bestowed upon the Monastery Grounds.
Although currently a mucky eyesore every summer, the pond is simply lacking maintenance, he says.
"It comes down to simple maintenance and they haven't done any maintenance," he says.
He's spent some time studying the setup there and blames two blocked inlet pipes of the four supposed to fill the pond, a crumbling retaining wall that permits overflow, and a broken dam that allows the pond to drain too low.
"It could be fixed in an afternoon for $20. Then just clean the pipes and do overall maintenance," he says. "It's a management issue with the pond. It just has to be managed."
Referencing the town's application for wetlands alternation, he says, "They spent $40,000 to do a study. But they can't clean a pipe or fix a stone wall?"
The new plan addresses opposition to filling the pond and plans for encouraging music concerts, noting, "There is a trade-off between a definite benefit for a majority of Cumberland residents versus a hypothetical, slight inconvenience for some nearby residents, and if so, then only for a few hours on only a few days."
The plan adds, however, "It was decided that guidelines would be developed for the use of the improved venue, to ensure there would be no decrease in the quality of life for landowners surrounding the park."
Argues Ratcliffe, "(The administration) looks at the concerts as economic development but people around the park will have to pay for this economic development."
He questions, too, the entire argument about a concert audience's relationship with musicians, noting that no one ever complained during the days of Sunday concerts when families would spread out blankets on the hill overlooking the pond and stage.