Babylon Town is racing to finish improvements to Geiger Lake Memorial Park in Wyandanch before funding for the work expires.
The town has been redeveloping the 23.4-acre parcel, which borders Deer Park, since 2011. The work is part of Wyandanch Rising, the town's $500-million public-private initiative to revitalize the hamlet.
The park previously had a pool, playground, baseball fields and basketball courts. Town Deputy Supervisor Tony Martinez said the park was underused and fell into disrepair, attracting criminal activity.
The park's refurbishment has been divided into several phases. The first was completed two years ago and includes a 14,400-square-foot spray park and 2,500-square-foot pavilion.
For the next phase, the town is building a playground and botanical garden. For this phase, the town received $700,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money that has to be used by the end of the year.
"It's a little bit of a challenge but we feel we're going to get it done," said town consultant Peter Casserly.
Along with lighting and infrastructure work, the town is putting in slate-topped benches as part of a rose arbor, as well as an English-style cottage which will serve as a hub for the park's utilities.
Stone bridges and permeable brick pathways are also being laid out, which Martinez said is part of the town's desire to have the separate elements of the park interconnected.
The botanical garden will eventually include Japanese, rhododendron and sensory gardens, Martinez said, and the town is hoping to have school groups visit and to develop partnerships with local colleges to have students work there.
The town is also undertaking wetlands restoration and has built a series of bioswales, landscaping elements that filter contaminants and debris from water that flows from the park into the Carlls River and the Great South Bay.
"It was just an old, rundown stream full of shopping carts and garbage and there were a lot of things leaching into it," Casserly said.
The town received a $600,000 state loan for this environmental work. Overall, the entire park project was bonded by the town for $9 million.
While some nearby residents said they approve of the changes, Sarah Lieberman, who lives across from the park, has not been happy.
"The town has done nothing to help out a vulnerable population of kids, which is teenagers," she said, citing the removal of the basketball court and baseball fields during the redevelopment. She said the spray park, aimed at younger children, is underutilized.
Martinez said the park is intended for all ages and that the spray park has been a success, with 20,000 visitors last summer.
He said that while the park is part of the Wyandanch revitalization, the changes benefit neighboring Deer Park and the rest of the town as well.
"That's the beauty -- communities coming together to change the perception of Wyandanch and have everyone be able to use this park with their families," Martinez said.