Hamlet finally getting a park
NY Journal News
April 3, 2008
Camarda's $2M Carmel project follows controversy,
CARMEL - The long-anticipated and much-debated Camarda
Park is closer to an opening day.
This week backhoes and trucks moved soil and pulled
out trees as the $2 million construction began on
ballfields and play areas off Seminary Hill Road.
A groundbreaking ceremony took place Saturday.
The park is expected to open by July 2009 and will
be the first one in Carmel's hamlet.
"We are finally able to provide a park for
hamlet residents. Before they had to travel to Mahopac,
Patterson and Kent. Now they will have their field
of dreams," Town Supervisor Kenneth Schmitt
said. "Finally, we have gotten to the point
where things will happen. It is a momentous occasion."
The park sits on 37 acres behind Willow Ridge, a
luxury subdivision, and near an older neighborhood
with historic homes and stone walls along the winding
Seminary Hill Road.
In response to community concerns, its design was
scaled back from a sports center with many fields
to a less developed site with one multipurpose athletic
field for baseball, Little League, soccer and lacrosse
games. There will be two basketball courts, a playground,
nature trails and an open field. Also planned are
a small building with restrooms and storage, and
roughly 100 parking spots.
Developer Paul Camarda of Hudson Valley Realty Investments
in Carmel donated the parcel in 1999 when he set
out to build 71 homes in Willow Ridge near Lake Gleneida.
He paid the town $213,000 in recreation fees and,
though not required, also gave the land for a park
named after his father, Paul A. Camarda. He touted
the pending parkland in marketing materials, and
residents in the 5-year-old subdivision have said
they are disappointed it took so long. He also built
a 850-foot access road.
"Many times in life you have to a wait for
good things. This thing took longer than it should
have but in the end is worth the wait," he said
Camarda money is linked to much of the funding.
The largest chunk comes from the $1,150,000 the
town received from the developer when it sold him
a 19-acre parcel on Route 6 near Southeast. Camarda
has wrapped that land into Gateway Summit, a proposed
hotel-conference business center with retail and
An additional $700,000 comes from the Parkland Trust
Fund, recreation fees charged to the developers of
new subdivisions. This includes payments from Camarda
for Willow Ridge and nearly $300,000 from his two
earlier projects, 37-home Laurel Farms and 58-home
Another $350,000 comes from the town's General Fund.
On Feb. 6, the board unanimously awarded a $2,135,000
construction bid to Brennan Construction of Mahopac.
Some residents urged the town to move ahead, saying
the fields were greatly needed. The Carmel Sports
Association and Mahopac Sports Association, which
organize youth sports, worked for the plan's acceptance.
"It will be good for local kids and local athletes,
but also good for the community to have a park to
enjoy, a place to go to walk around and have a picnic," said
Mike Berg, CSA president and 14-year hamlet resident.
Opponents had cited environmental and safety concerns.
They sued the town and won some changes to the original
Cindy and Peter Katz, 34-year residents of Seminary
Hill Road, had opposed the larger project, saying
the road could not handle the increased traffic,
particularly buses, and the steeply sloped parcel
with wetlands would make construction costly and
disturb a natural setting.
"I am saddened by the loss of the forest. There
were very old trees that have been taken down," Cindy
Her husband, Peter, said it was unseemly to build
such an expensive park in view of the bad financial
outlook for homeowners, local taxpayers and municipalities.
"We are building a multimillion-dollar park
that will affect a small number of Carmel people
while the county is threatening to do away with essential
services," he said, referring to proposals to
cut school resource officers and end countywide public
bus service. "They are devastating the topography
to build a park, and you have to wonder if the destruction
is worth the service that will be provided."