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Poughkeepsie residents, architects meet for final input meeting on Kaal Rock Park concept plan

Kaal Rock Park
A map of Kaal Rock Park in Pougkeepsie.

Architects in Poughkeepsie are working to finalize a concept plan for the rehabilitation of the city’s waterfront Kaal Rock Park.

The park was identified as an underutilized space in need of improvements earlier this year. The city retained LaBella Associates, which has been a WAMC underwriter, to help with the project, and city residents recently met in a final public meeting to share their input.

LaBella Senior Landscape Architect Brit Basinger says the main focus is lighting and electrical upgrades, as well as two sand volleyball courts — but the broader conceptual plan will help make sure those lights are installed with the park’s future buildout in mind, including the Kaal Rock Connector and efforts to shore up the park’s shoreline.

“We hope to finalize this concept over the next month with everyone’s input," says Basinger. "We’ll put together schematic design plans sometime in February. And our plans, at the moment, are to improve the lighting and the sand volleyball courts sometime in the spring of 2024.”

Basinger says the broader concept plan includes a pedestrian suspension bridge around Kaal Rock for the Kaal Rock Connector, an overlook area with grassy seating at Kaal Rock Point, the two volleyball courts, an outdoor amphitheater, public bathrooms, a possible concession stand, and a kayak launch. Much of the park south of the Mid-Hudson Bridge will involve parking and a promenade.

City resident Dave Henningsen, who has helped organize concerts at the park, says he’s excited about the development — but looking at the draft plan, he’d like to see more trees, and less concrete.

"I just see too much gray," says Henningsen.

"I think what we’re trying to accomplish — the design objective is to create a safe open space, but yet a sustainable, natural environment," assures Basinger.

Basinger says it’s too early to decide exactly what kinds of plants and stone might come out of the concept plan, but added he’s open to residents’ suggestions.

Local Ryan Thomas asked about what he viewed as a main topic of the previous meeting: the two volleyball courts, which the plan currently has placed at the north end of the park, by Kaal Rock Apartments. Thomas says he wonders whether the courts will actually get any use, or whether they’ll just end up being a trap for stray cats. And if it does get use, he worries about the noise it could bring to the nearby apartments, and that the overall increased popularity might also spike an increase in drug use and misconduct at the park.

"I mean, it looks nice. I hope that, somehow, the city will figure out how to address safety and noise with this beautiful improvement, because part of the utilization problem is because people are blasting music down there day and night, and it’s like a pot factory down there," says Thomas. "So, I don’t think the [underutilization] is so much about having a volleyball court or whatever, but about feeling safe."

"The city understands and has heard the issues about safety, and as the park improves over time, there will have to be an appropriate response," Basinger agrees.

The plan is the latest in a long line of studies to improve the city’s waterfront, going back to at least 1989. Basinger says Kaal Rock Park has come a long way in just the past 10 years, even, with the city clearing some trees to open up views of the Hudson River and working to maintain the slopes heading down to the shoreline. But everything discussed at the meeting, he emphasized, is still in its infancy. He says LaBella is still very much in the “collecting input” stage, and that outdoor amphitheater? It probably won’t be coming to Poughkeepsie anytime soon.

"The primary of the purpose of the concept plan is to do some of these other improvements, but not in a way that they would have to remove them or relocate them in the future," he explains. "So, there’s a lot more detail that can be pulled into this project.

You can find a copy of the concept plan here and watch the whole meeting here.

Jesse King is the host of WAMC's national program on women's issues, "51%," and the station's bureau chief in the Hudson Valley. She has also produced episodes of the WAMC podcast "A New York Minute In History."