Carmel park opens after decade of delays
The Journal News
Dwight R Worley

CARMEL - A cloudy sky and a couple raindrops couldn't stop yesterday's opening of Paul A. Camarda Park - the first recreation facility in the hamlet.

As parents pulled up in SUVs filled with food, children hopped from the vehicles and darted for the basketball courts, tossed baseballs back and forth, flung Frisbees and played kickball.

"A lot of people have been waiting for this," said Paul Holman, shooting hoops with his son, Ryan, 7. "These fields are going to get a lot of use."

The town held a grand opening ceremony for the park, which was attended by Carmel Supervisor Kenneth Schmitt, developer Paul Camarda Jr., who donated the land and named the park after his father, and other local officials. Even with the rain, the park got a lot of use on its first day with a picnic under a white tent and an awards ceremony for Little League baseball players.

The 37-acre park, which cost about $2.5 million, is ringed with trees and sits near a trout fishing stream off Seminary Hill Road. It holds two baseball fields, a basketball court, a large open field for soccer or for use as a picnic area, and a volunteer-built children's playground with swings and a jungle gym.

Muriel Cornish donated $30,000 to the Carmel Sports Association, which gave the money to the town to build an open pavilion in the park.

Schmitt said officials are preparing to solicit bids for the 25-by-50-foot structure, with plans to have it completed by the end of the summer. Plans for the park also include restrooms and nature trails, he said.

"The town needs this," said Sandor Kozma, 38, who visited with his three children. "The kids will have a place to play, away from traffic and close to home. It's long overdue."

The joy yesterday was a stark contrast to the contentious battles that delayed building the park for a decade. Opponents of the project, some of whom live in older homes along Seminary Hill Road, cited environmental and safety concerns. They sued the town and won some changes to the original plan, which was larger and more involved.

Camarda, who made the donation in 1999 when he set out to build 71 homes in Willow Ridge near Lake Gleneida, said yesterday that the concerns were overblown and that the park fits in nicely with the community.

"It's a lot of satisfaction to see it done," he said.

Staff writer Barbara Nackman contributed to this report.