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Nissequogue River State Park improvement project to start next year

Building number 93 on the grounds of the

Building number 93 on the grounds of the Kings Park Psychiatric Center, in Kings Park, is seen on Oct. 19, 2014. Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

The second phase of Nissequogue River State Park's transformation will start next year with the drafting of designs for new gardens, trails, picnic areas and multisport athletic fields, the state parks department announced.

Contractors should start adding the new features and demolishing six dilapidated buildings on the 522-acre site of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center in the spring of 2016, the agency reported.

"You'll start to see the park take shape," said Randy Simons, spokesman for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. "The scenery is unmatched down there. When you get a chance to overlook the [Long Island] Sound or the ocean . . . what's better than that?"

Funding for the $6.4 million project comes from a $25 million appropriation secured by Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in 2006. That funding also paid for the first phase of park improvements -- demolishing 19 buildings, tunnels, roadways and walkways, and removing hazardous materials.

"We're very happy they are taking the next steps," said John McQuaid of Kings Park, chairman of the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation.

McQuaid and others, however, say the project should begin with a master plan spelling out which buildings to save and which to demolish, and how to ensure the larger, southern section of the property is saved from development.

"How do you make those decisions without a master plan?" he said, noting that some buildings are in such poor repair that visitors might be injured.

Foundation secretary Dorothy Chanin of Kings Park also expressed concern about the southern part of the property that reaches to Route 25A.

Flanagan said in a statement that he supported "efforts to remediate the south side of Nissequogue River State Park, which as parkland is eligible to benefit from the remediation funds that I have secured to restore this land."

Simons, noting it would cost more than $200 million to demolish all buildings, said: "We believe we are improving this property sensibly and in reasonable phases."

Hiking, jogging and bird-watching, and using the park's marinas, already have proved popular in the waterfront area that opened in 2000. The hospital closed in 1996.

So far this year, the park has drawn 73,273 visitors, compared with about 123,584 visitors for all of 2013. The park's popularity has risen steadily since 2010, when there were 75,641 visitors, records show.

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