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Rye Town Park: Improvements Made, But Still a Work-in-Progress

Not that long ago, cars were free to barrel across the lawns in Rye Town Park, creating a dangerous situation for pedestrians (particularly small children). There were no clearly demarcated pedestrian zones or access points. Roads adjacent to the park were clogged with summer visitor traffic.


By the Rye Citizens Committee on Parking in RTP

 

Not that long ago, cars were free to barrel across the lawns in Rye Town Park, creating a dangerous situation for pedestrians (particularly small children). There were no clearly demarcated pedestrian zones or access points. Roads adjacent to the park were clogged with summer visitor
traffic.

 

Oakland Beach was, at certain times, unsuitable for families because of an “anything goes” atmosphere, including alcohol and drug use. Frequent fights were broken up by the police and lifeguards were often called upon to stop behavior by beachgoers inappropriate for a public place.

 

Fortunately, the situation has improved significantly in recent years. Rye Mayor Doug French, Rye Town Supervisor Joe Carvin, Councilman Joe Sack, and other members of the governing Rye Town Park Commission held two very well-attended community forums in 2010. As a consequence of these meetings, a number of changes occurred, including the establishment of The Rye Citizens Committee on Parking in RTP and the Rye RTP Advisory Committee. We can report the following:

 

Increased Recreational Use of Green Space

 

Although, in our view, cars still take too large a share of the green space, this summer cars were processed and parked in a more orderly manner, using less space for the same number of cars. The staff also eliminated the practice of parking some cars beyond the barrier. Thanks to a safer, more “people-friendly” atmosphere in the park, folks came out to play in droves this past summer. It was also nice to see kids allowed to throw a ball or a Frisbee — it is a park, after all.

 

Beach Security

 

Beach security vastly improved this summer after a new head of security was appointed. Some patrol units rode on bikes to more actively manage park-wide safety; the security staff checked coolers for alcohol, and they were able to deter rough behavior.


Has it made a difference? Rye City and Rye Town residents  constituted 8% of park visitors last year, in around  30% this year.  

 

Rye City Standing Up For Its Rights

 

Rye Town does not solely own the park, but jointly holds title with Rye City. Rye City is responsible for funding approximately 48% of the park’s operating expenses. However, with only two out of six RTP Commissioners, we do believe Rye City is underrepresented in decision-making. For example, the recent decision to strictly enforce dog leash rules in the park was taken over the objection of both Rye City representatives – even though it affected primarily Rye City residents. Whatever the merits of the decision, this decision illustrates how Rye City’s voice in the governance of the park is not proportional to our share of the financial burden and local impact.

 

Accountability and Cash Flow Management

 

Shortly before Joe Carvin became Rye Town Supervisor, RTP passed a nearly $500,000 loss on to the taxpayers of Rye Town and Rye City. Recent losses have been much lower. However, the bulk of the million-dollar revenue stream is  still collected entirely on a cash basis — not the best of practices.


In addition, we believe expenses and staff levels could be further rationalized. At the September meeting, RTP Commissioners also approved new small-scale automation and tracking measures that will improve accounting for cash in the park. Unfortunately, there is nothing anyone can do to

control the weather, which is perhaps the most significant source of volatility in beach and park revenues.

 

Meaningful change has come to Rye Town Park, thanks to the involvement of so many. Can more improvements be made? For sure, but we are greatly encouraged by what we have seen so far.


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