A community park straddling Riverhead and Southampton towns that was once overgrown with plants and littered with discarded drug paraphernalia will get a boost to ongoing beautification efforts that will help improve the park’s Southampton entrance.
The Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association was one of 11 recipients in October of Round 16 funding from Suffolk County’s Downtown Revitalization Grants Program. The civic group was awarded $30,000 to finance improvements at the popular Milton L. Burns Park, more commonly known to East End residents as Grangebel Park.
While the park is mostly owned and managed by Riverhead, Ron Fisher, the Flanders civic group's president, said last week that his group has been working with Southampton officials on a plan “to make [the park] more welcoming” from the Peconic Avenue side of the park in Southampton. Updates will include new lights, signs, park benches, new plants and bicycle racks.
“We feel once the park is lit properly, it will make a big difference, especially when adding benches and other improvements,” Fisher said.
Fisher said that in years past, trees and plants had become overgrown near the Southampton entryway to the park. In addition, drug users had left discarded needles around the entryway, he said.
“We were regularly cleaning up needles and heroin bags,” Fisher said of civic group volunteers.
New paving work done in conjunction with the Riverside traffic circle improvements completed in October has helped cut down on drug paraphernalia being left in the area, he added.
Riverhead groups and officials have also worked to improve the park’s image. Riverhead police officials in August recommended adding more lighting at the park to improve safety there as part of their downtown policing plan. In addition, the Riverhead Business Improvement District and other groups sponsored “Reflextions: Art in the Park,” a temporary art installation at Grangebel Park in September that featured illuminated art sculptures.
“Riverhead is taking great strides to activate the park, and now we’re taking the same steps on our side to make it look nicer,” Fisher said, adding that his group would be working on plans this winter for the new lights, benches and other updates so the work can begin in the spring.
Southampton Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone said Nov. 30 that the park improvements go hand-in-hand with ongoing efforts to revitalize the nearby Riverside area.
“[The improvements] not only improve the aesthetics of the park, but it also makes it safer and more inviting,” Zappone said. “When people see those kinds of improvements, it usually cuts down on littering because people see it and become more respectful of the local environment.”