In recent years, an initiative has begun to revitalize and enhance Edward R. Murrow Memorial Park and Lakeside Park. The project is being helmed by the Pawling Community Foundation (PCF) and operates under the motto of “One Community One Park.” Ultimately, the redevelopment plan will incorporate feedback from residents and see improvements to existing facilities as well as new additions to Pawling’s two adjoining park areas. The Pawling Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is committed to improving the quality of life for all Pawling residents by developing community resources and public spaces, furthering the community’s economic vitality, and by supporting the arts, cultural activities, tourism, and recreation.
The PCF is dedicated to the redevelopment of Murrow and Lakeside Parks. The organization is led by people with deep connections to the Pawling community. PCF Co-Chair Katie Allen Berlandi was raised in Pawling and currently serves as the Dean of Counseling at Trinity-Pawling School. Co-Chair Mario Mejorado is a lifelong resident of Pawling and is familiar with the town’s park from his youth. “I spent a lot of time at Murrow Park as a child and a teenager,” he explains. Consultant Ed Hauser is a former PCF Board member and a retired Facilities Director at Trinity-Pawling; he was also instrumental in the process of the Town of Pawling acquiring Lakeside Park, formerly known as the YMCA Holiday Hills Conference Center, in 2003. “I have a lot of interest in the park,” says Hauser. “When I was given the opportunity to serve as a consultant, I jumped at it.”
Lakeside Park, located at 2 Lakeside Drive, is home to the Lathrop Center, a Teen Center, numerous athletic fields, and provides beach access to Green Mountain Lake. The park also hosts numerous community events including the Music By the Lake summer concert series, Pawling’s Independence Day Celebration, the Pawling Triathlon, and the 2018 Fire Department Carnival. Murrow Park is located to the south at 142 Lakeside Drive. “When we started this project, we realized people saw the parks as two separate things,” says Mejorado. “If you look at a map, they directly abut each other. From that point forward we started looking at it as one large park.” The area of Lakeside and Murrow Parks combined covers roughly 368 acres.
The One Community One Park initiative began when former PCF member Nancy Tanner became concerned about the deterioration of Murrow Park. “The emphasis was shifting to Lakeside Park,” says Hauser. “Nancy actually started the initiative for a renovation and reintroduction of the park to the community. That was the catalyst for the whole thing. We stepped back and realized that these might be two separate entities, but they’re really connected. Most people drive by and don’t even realize that.” After Ms. Tanner launched the concept of park revitalization, members of the PCF reached out to Betsy Brockway, retired Commissioner of Recreation for Dutchess County and former Recreation Director for the Town of Pawling. Ms. Brockway consulted with neighboring Recreation Departments and held a number of public forums in 2015 seeking community feedback and ideas of how to improve the two parks.
Following the public forums, members of the PCF examined the community feedback and compiled a list of 18 individual projects that they hoped to undertake. Among the recommended projects were a walking trail connecting Lakeside and Murrow Parks, new and improved athletic fields, also known as “The Great Lawn,” and a fenced dog park located at Murrow Park. The Pawling Town Board later passed a resolution of support for the initiative.
The idea of the dog park has recently seen progress, and project organizers are hopeful that this will be one of the first completed initiatives. The proposed site of the dog park currently sits on an acre of unused space in Murrow Park opposite Lakeside Drive, which will eventually become an off-the-leash, fenced-in area for residents to bring their canine companions. “We got a lot of feedback from the community about a dog park, and this was definitely a want,” says Berlandi.
The PCF is attempting to move the project forward with the aid of LandDesign, a company based out of Washington, DC. One of LandDesign’s partners, Matthew Clark, is a former Pawling resident who still owns property in Pawling and is intimately familiar with the town’s parks. “Matthew is currently working on the drawings for the dog park, says Hauser. “Working with him has been delightful. His heart is in it. He’s here on a regular basis. He took the whole park complex and produced some schematic concepts then did some renderings and produced an architect’s vision of what the parks could look like. We gave him the results of the survey and explained that this is what people want.”
The PCF is also seeking to repair and level the athletic fields of The Great Lawn at Lakeside Park. To this end, the organization reached an agreement with Trinity-Pawling School and secured a mound of soil when the school undertook construction of a new facility in 2015. The pile will eventually be used to level the playing fields and incorporate drainage. “We’ve done an awful lot of work already to make sure that this project moves along, and we’re excited about where we are,” says Mejorado. “We’ve had many conversations with Supervisor James Schmitt, and he really wants to see the parks become a focal point of the community. He sees them as an asset and a resource to the community.”
Going forward, the PCF will be engaged in fundraising efforts and continue to build awareness for the One Community One Park initiative. “We’ve had a presence this year and last year at the Pawling Farmers Market, and we just need to continue to put out information,” says Berlandi. “Last year, we had our first fundraising gala at Trinity-Pawling where we were able to honor Nancy Tanner and John and Betty Hettinger with the PCF Distinguished Community Service Award.”
The next PCF Gala will be held on November 17 at Trinity-Pawling, where Elizabeth Peale Allen will receive the Distinguished Community Service Award. “Last year’s gala was very successful; we were able to raise a nice chunk of money so we can keep working and developing the project,” Mejorado explains.
“We’re so grateful for all the support,” adds Berlandi.
Members of the PCF are confident that the One Community One Park initiative will continue to move forward through fundraising, increased awareness, and cooperation with local authorities. The organization also has a successful track record in the community, the most notable example being the establishment of the Village Green, which hosts the Pawling Farmers Market and numerous community events throughout the year. “The PCF created the green on Metro North property as part of a partnership with the Village,” explains Mejorado.
“We just need to keep being diligent about our fundraising to keep moving,” says Berlandi. “Momentum is key in any project.”
For more information about the Pawling Community Foundation, visit PawlingFoundation.org online.