Disbrow Park Master Plan Gets Fast-Tracked

By Tom McDermott

Mention Disbrow Park to Rye residents and you could get a dozen different reactions. The 47-acre property is known for its Little League and softball fields (Grainger, Founders, Feeley), public tennis courts, and an often-soggy soccer field (Sterling). It is also home to Rye’s Recycling Center, various DPW garages and storage buildings, and a County treatment plant. One-third of the property is designated wetland, through which Blind Brook picks its way. All this, and basically one access road from Oakland Beach Avenue, limited parking, and many traffic safety hazards, particularly when young athletes are about.

One thing many residents seem to agree on: It’s time for a fix. Which is why late last year the City retained global design and project management firm Stantec Consulting to help prepare a Disbrow Park Master Plan and cost estimates.

The first of four planned public meetings to enlist feedback from area neighbors, recreation user groups, and interested residents took place May 11 at Rye Recreation’s Damiano Center. The same day, an online survey went live on the City’s website, ryeny.gov.

At the meeting, Lisa Dempsey, chair of the Rye Recreation Commission, introduced Gary Sorge and Jennifer Waldron of Stantec who conducted the meeting and breakout sessions. City Councilman Terry McCartney and Mayor Joe Sack observed and participated in the breakout meetings.

Some residents voiced a concern that not enough notice had been given for the meeting or the survey; others were particularly worried about protecting the wetlands. But as the night progressed, the four smaller breakout sections allowed for concerns to be heard while eliciting ideas and suggestions.

Each breakout section shared its combined thoughts regarding the park’s assets, current weaknesses, opportunities, and possible threats presented by a new design. Common assets mentioned were the natural beauty and need to protect the wetlands (in a FEMA flood zone), central location, and valuable field space. Many agreed the fields needed to be fixed – especially Sterling Field, buildings need to be nicer, traffic flow must be improved, more parking and restrooms were musts, as well as safe drop-off areas. An opportunity to create better sight lines at Feeley Field emerged, as did the idea of a new walking path. Some saw too much parking as a threat to the park, and a basic conflict of purposes between the recreation and public works functions.

On May 31 at 7 p.m., Stantec will present preliminary plans based on resident input and information gathered from the survey for further public comment. Based on feedback from that meeting, Stantec will present a preferred design alternative on June 20. Both meetings will be held at Rye Rec. A “final” presentation will take place at the July 12 City Council meeting.