Plans to revitalize Albany’s landmark Lincoln Park are moving forward.
According to the park’s official web site, in the 1800s what is now Lincoln Park cradled the Beaver Kill, a Hudson River tributary whose meandering flows created a ravine that reached depths of over 30 feet. Over time the Beaver Kill was redirected and the ravine filled. Lincoln Park was established as Albany's first public playground in 1900. Its centerpiece swimming pool opened July 4th, 1931.
Now, the park has aged to the point where it became clear that change was due, eventually giving birth to the long-range Lincoln Park Master Plan to organize a vision for improvements there.
Three Lincoln Park Master Plan Design Input Community Meetings have been held to date, gathering residents input about the future direction of the park. Albany Common Councilor Catherine Fahey represents the 7th ward: "They've been very well-attended terrific sessions where we talk about all aspects of the park. Even though it's a huge park, people are coming up with just tremendous ideas about a wide wide range of things, whether it's arts and cultural events, more sports fields, paying attention the natural ecology of the park.:
The city hired Massachusetts-based Stimson Studio Landscape Architects. Stimson's Glen Valentine says the firm has come up with three sets of alternatives for the park organized around three different themes. "Culture and community. Active recreation and health, and ecology."
Some the ideas that have been brought up include: "A new theater, outdoor theater, for community art events and performances. There was a lot of strong support for a circuit trail along the outside of the park. People are very interested in the idea of additional playgrounds and an additional splash pad kind of play area. People loved the idea of some meadow areas with native plants. Also people really liked the idea that we'd be improving the athletic fields in the park and adding to the existing number of basketball courts, and making better facilities for perhaps tournaments to happen in the park."
Attendees also expressed their preferences for replacing the Lincoln Park pool. "And our next step now is to take those preferred ideas or components of each theme and combine them into one overall draft master plan to present to the community."
Councilor Fahey characterizes the park as "a tremendous resource that's underutilized." "We really want it to be a place for everyone to use. We want better access, better lighting, you know it's a real participatory process where everybody's voice is heard."
An Albany Water Department initiative, the Beaver Creek Clean River Project, is being conducted in Lincoln Park in compliance with a New York State consent order to address environmental concerns and eliminate sewer overflows into the Hudson River. It has become a part of the master plan.
The mostly underground facility would add a few park amenities while addressing a decades-old issue involving a sewer line and a ravine.
City Water Commissioner Joe Coffey says plans call for installing a new pipe establishing a gravity connection to Third Avenue sewer systems to transport excess water runoff to a wastewater treatment plant. "We can restore that area to a very functional element of the park and make that part of a learning opportunity for Hackett and TOAST students. We're gonna have outdoor classrooms there and a lot of features that were identified and suggested and recommended by the community."
The City of Albany is presenting its final draft master plan for Lincoln Park at a public meeting January 15, 2019 at 6 at the Thomas O’Brien Academy of Science and Technology Auditorium, or TOAST, at 94 Delaware Ave.
City officials say the long-range plan carries "no particular timetable" and is not subject to Common Council review or approval. Yasmine Robinson is Albany's Deputy Director of Planning and Development. "Going through the community-driven master plan process sets up the city to prioritize the Lincoln Park Master Plan's elements and be competitive when grant opportunities or other funding sources become available."