By Jamie Jensen
Given the extremely cold weather this January, Rye residents have been staying in doors and dog-friendly owners, their pets, and the hardiest among us have spent much time at Rye Town Park. However, much is going on behind the scenes at 222 Grace Church Street (the Town Park offices) and at monthly Rye Town Park Commission meetings.
Mayor Josh Cohn and Deputy Mayor Emily Hurd are the new faces on the Commission, replacing Joe Sack and Julie Killian. They will play a critical, but limited, role as the City of Rye controls two of the six votes on the Commission but is obligated to pay 40% of the park costs.
Here are just a few of the challenges ahead.
The City of Rye did not budget new dollars for the park in 2018, but rather passed a resolution in December to roll over the $70,000 unspent funds for this coming year.
The City of Rye has not had to meet any obligations using taxpayer dollars in recent years. Unfortunately, this will not be the case for 2018. Rye Town Park is closing its fiscal year with an operating deficit of $27,642.
With capital needs looming at the park and unanticipated emergency repairs adding to expenses — most recently, burst water pipes in the men’s bathroom of the bathhouse — it is just a matter of time before the City will need to pony up much-needed capital to repair the historic landmarked bathhouse and administrative buildings.
Plans to create a Conservancy to raise private dollars for capital expenditures have started in earnest. Commission members understand that any state or federal grants awarded in 2018 for repair of the sea wall along Dearborn Avenue (cost estimate $789,930) and the bathhouse roof (cost estimate at $350,000) will require a financial commitment from the community.
There is still no word on who will take over the waterfront restaurant after the Ocean Grille packed up and moved out in late November. Although a restaurant has been selected to take on the 20-year lease, the Commission will not reveal the name until the negotiations, which began in November, are complete. The restaurant/concession lessee brings in close to $100,000 in revenue to the park annually. Given the lead-time needed to open a restaurant, residents are beginning to wonder what is causing the delay.
The Rye Town Park Commission meets the third Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. Residents are encouraged to attend.
All quiet at Rye Town Park on such a winter’s day
The Ocean Grille closed last fall and it is hoped that a new restaurant will open in its place this spring.