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The State of the Parks, January 2010

 

It is my honor to serve as chairperson of the Great Neck Park District for the year 2010. The State of the Parks report gives me the opportunity to reflect on the many accomplishments and challenges of the past year, and to address some of the issues that we will face in the coming year.

Although this has been an extremely challenging year, I am happy to say that our Board has accomplished an extraordinary number of goals. Together with Commissioners Bob Lincoln and Ivar Segalowitz, Superintendent Neil Marrin and Deputy Superintendent Peter Renick we have worked diligently to bring innovation, growth and beauty to our parks, programs and services. We are extremely proud of our staff of supervisors, directors, recreation leaders, maintenance workers, park attendants and office staffs. Their talents, enthusiasm and hard work are a large part of the success of this park district and the respect it has achieved.

The state of the parks is indeed healthy. The Parkwood Complex was busier than ever! The opening of a full season of the new Parkwood Family Aquatic Center with a new Olympic-size main pool, a Lazy River, a new kiddie pool, intermediate pool, water playground and water slide was the highlight of the summer of 2009. There was an appreciable increase in membership and greater participation in water activities. A new lounge serving the needs of both the aquatic center and the Stergiopoulos Ice Skating Rink has become a popular meeting place for many residents. The lounge has been doubled in size, new bathrooms installed and a warm-up /party room provided. This year we look forward to the addition of hockey locker rooms and a new roof for the rink. The rink was a popular destination for many more families this year with figure skaters and hockey players participating in games, classes, camps, competition and shows.

Another major project of the Board of Commissioners has been the revitalization and renovation of the Village Green in the “Old Village.” The goal is to restore the Victorian charm of this historic park’s original design. New Victorian lighting was added. A new fountain with a sitting area now beautifies the Village Green thanks to the generosity of the Village of Great Neck. The completion of Phase I of the new all-abilities Playgarden is already popular with families. This year we are looking forward to the completion of Phase 2 of the Playgarden, as well as the construction of a new Veterans Memorial.

This past year brought innovative ventures. After years of debate over the possibility of offering a Dog Park to our residents it was finally accomplished. Our remarkable staff stepped in and constructed an area at Peninsula Park that residents and their pets are now enjoying. The other venture involved a partnership with the federal government, and permission from the Village of Kings Point. The goal was to rid a section of Kings Point Park of an invasive plant called CatBriar. A team of volunteers sponsored by AmeriCorps arrived to start the project. They were soon joined by a team of hungry goats rented by the park district to help complete the job. Watching this project and the dedication of the volunteers was a delight to see.

The park district offered innumerable programs throughout the year. Every season had its special activities - adult and children classes, movies, nature programs, cultural arts programs, winter swim classes, concerts on the Village Green, indoor and outdoor tennis, Waterside Theater performances, Steppingstone Preschool Camp, Camp Parkwood, sailing lessons, boating, fishing, softball, soccer, hiking and sled riding.

The park budget was approved in October. The Board of Commissioners seriously weighed the continuing state of the economy and the impact that property taxes has on us all. Though the Parkwood Sports Complex renovation is now complete and was within budget, the cost of bonding had to be included in the budget. However, through good planning and management we have been able to increase our fund balance allowing us to use some of the cash reserves to offset potential tax increases.

The year 2009 continued to be a stressful time for local government. We have tried to keep you informed regarding the issue of consolidation and dissolution and why it is detrimental to districts, villages and towns. New York State however, has chosen to pass a law that will be enacted in March that will provide a venue for the demise of local entities. We will continue to work with other local units to have this law amended. We hope you will join us in this campaign.

Sadly, Superintendent Neil D. Marrin will be departing from the Great Neck Park District to pursue another avenue of his career. It is with deep regret that we bid him farewell. It has been a profound pleasure to work with a dedicated, articulate, caring professional that has carried out the many challenges given by this Board. We wish him well. A huge responsibility faces us in the coming months to find a replacement. He has set the bar for us to reach.

My fellow commissioners and I wish you all a Happy New Year and continuing days of recreation and pleasure in our parks.