The Town of Babylon is about to embark on a major refurbishment of a park, even though it doesn’t belong to the town.
The town last week contracted with Cameron Engineering & Associates, LLP of Woodbury for up to $75,000 for engineering, design and other services related to Van Bourgondien Park in West Babylon.
The property belonged to the Dutch Van Bourgondien family and was used for their nurseries until the 1970s, when Suffolk County acquired the property.
The town developed the land as a park and after the county failed to take care of it, the town began contracting with the county to maintain the park using town funds. The town spends about $46,000 annually on the more than 20 acres of land, town spokesman Kevin Bonner said.
“It’s really a one-sided agreement,” said Deputy Supervisor Tony Martinez. “But we have a responsibility to our residents to provide them a clean area to enjoy.”
Over time, the park’s usage changed. The park now has 11 soccer fields used by the West Babylon South Shore Soccer Club, which is made up of more than 500 young soccer players. Martinez said that as a result, the park is “perceived as a soccer park only and people don’t feel welcomed.”
“It’s just soccer all the time now,” said neighbor Matt Senatore, who said his own children cannot use the park. “Who can go in there and fly a kite on a Saturday?”
After holding a series of meetings with the community and involving nonprofit Vision Long Island, the town has come up with a plan to make the park more inclusive. While the majority of the park will remain for soccer use, the town’s refurbishment includes a new entrance with a gateway, as well as a new playground, a walking trail and picnic areas.
The redesign also will involve realigning nearby streets to make the park safer to access for pedestrians, Martinez said.
“The end goal is that everyone gets a little piece of the park,” he said.
The expected cost of the overhaul is about $600,000, Martinez said. Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) has secured $300,000 in the county’s capital improvement budget toward the park and Engel Burman Group, the developer of a nearby assisted living facility, has offered to pay for the new playground at a cost of about $250,000, Martinez said.
The town also is getting $300,000 from the state for lighting for one soccer field in the southwest corner of the park. The town has bonded for $400,000 toward the lighting, he said.
Neighbors have for years complained about problems related to the soccer games, particularly bright lights shining in their homes. Martinez said previous complaints about lighting were due to soccer clubs bringing in generators to light the fields.
He said the new LED lighting will be efficient, minimizing spillage and the lights will be programmed to turn off at 9 p.m.
Senatore and his neighbors remain wary of the town’s plans and are asking for more information on the lights, including an environmental report.
“How tall are the lights, where are they being placed, what kind of support system are you going to be using?” he asked. “We haven’t seen anything laid out.”