The Scoop on the Dirt

For the past three years, visitors to Lakeside Park have noticed a large pile of dirt situated alongside the soccer fields. The mound came from a construction project at Trinity-Pawling School and was designated for use as part of an initiative to revamp the park’s Great Lawn, which has been delayed. The Pawling Town Board has recently unveiled a plan to remove the soil and use it to add an asset to Lakeside Park in the form of new recreation fields on the west side of the property.

Three years ago, Lakeside Park received approximately 8,500 yards of topsoil originating from the grounds of the Trinity-Pawling School during the construction of the school’s new athletic center. Town officials, in conjunction with members of the Pawling Community Foundation (PCF), planned to use the soil to landscape the park’s Great Lawn for athletic and community events. However, the project lost momentum after funding became unavailable, and the dirt pile became an eyesore.

In response to numerous resident inquiries, members of the Town Board have devised a plan that will allow for the removal of the dirt for use elsewhere in the park. The Board plans to rally members of the community, including local contractors and construction companies to donate labor and machinery to move the soil to create new athletic fields in the western corner of Lakeside Park off of Dodge Road. “It’s going to revitalize that part of the park,” explains Councilman Bill Johnson.

Recently, Town officials have been working with Civil Engineer Sarka Leff, who has graciously volunteered her time and expertise to help jumpstart the planning of the project. The area, which covers approximately eight acres, was clear-cut last year by workers from Schmitt Bros. Excavation and Development, who also volunteered their time.

Officials are excited by the prospect of the possibilities that new fields could bring to the west side of the park. “The whole point is to get people to the back of the park,” says Supervisor James Schmitt. “You’d basically have an additional park. There would be so many options.”

Members of the Town Board are still seeking to work in conjunction with the PCF, emphasizing that everyone is working toward the same goal of improving Lakeside Park. “We hope to move forward with the PCF,” says Councilman Johnson. Officials also explained that whenever the Great Lawn project is underway, it would mean that those areas would not be available for use for a minimum of two years, and the new fields on the west side of the park would be necessary to continue recreation activities. “When the Great Lawn project comes to fruition, we’ll need a place to go,” he adds.

The proposed fields would open up new possibilities at Lakeside Park for outdoor recreation. In addition to the new fields, there are also several barns on the property that could be used for art exhibitions, educational instruction, and indoor activities. “The possibilities are endless,” says Councilman Johnson. Officials believe that the new fields can be used for athletic events, summer camps, bird watching, running clubs, outdoor yoga, horseback riding, and even possibly a site for Pawling’s annual summer carnival. New fields would also allow for easier scheduling for sports games. “If we’re utilizing this, it doesn’t congest the center of the park anymore,” adds Supervisor Schmitt.

Going forward, Town officials are meeting with Dutchess County Soil and Water and the Department of Environmental Conservation to make sure that the plans are feasible and environmentally sound. The layout for the new fields has not been finalized at this time. Officials welcome community feedback and suggestions for prospective activities as the process moves ahead.

Officials are looking forward to not only the new possibilities that additional space will bring, but also making the removal of the dirt pile into a true community effort. “Last year, Community Day had more than 800 people,” Schmitt says. “We want to have more large events here, and we need more open space to do that. We’re going to partner with local contractors and businesses, and it’s going to be great to say that we moved 8,000 yards of dirt in a week. This is something that can move forward soon.”