February in Rye Town Park is usually a quiet month, but warmer than usual weather has brought residents and visitors out in droves. Meanwhile, staff, volunteers, and Barley Beach House restaurant crew are working away on plans and maintenance projects to ensure the park is ready for its spring closeup.
With renewed interest in preserving Rye’s majestic trees throughout the community, we asked Park Director Russ Gold about the Park’s tree maintenance program. Twice a year, he explained, the Rye Town Park Commission hires an outside ISA-certified arborist who specializes in tree-risk assessment and recommends a treatment, feeding, and pruning schedule. If a tree is diseased or dead and needs to be removed, Park staff hire a different company to take down the tree. This two-step process is intended to avoid conflicts of interest. In this year’s draft budget, $51,500 is proposed for tree maintenance.
The Friends of Rye Town Park, in coordination with the Park Director, hosts monthly beach cleanups in winter. Equipped with orange buckets and grabbers, Friends and families turned out on January 21 and again on February 18to pick up garbage along the beach. They also combed through the vegetation that gathers on the tidal line and removed bits of plastic, Styrofoam, and other debris that wash ashore. The next volunteer cleanup is March 18, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
The daffodils located in the center of the great lawn are budding early, so the Friends have posted signs encouraging residents to take care when walking near them.
Through a generous private donation to honor the memory of local resident Norbert Galligan, bike racks will be installed this spring.
Residents and their dogs
have been granted an extra 30 minutes of off-leash time. The hours are now 6-9:30 a.m. through the end of March. This extension did not come without debate. The director and staff want assurances that maintenance work will not be complicated by these extra 30 minutes. Recent incidents involving unleashed dogs in other parts of city have raised concerns. Rye Town Administrator Debbie Reisner has received complaints from park patrons claiming dogs are off leash during afternoon hours. At the February 7 Commission meeting, Town of Rye Attorney Jeff Binder made clear that the city ordinance regarding dogs in the park needs to be clearly communicated and enforced. While signs are posted in the park, not everyone complies.
For those wanting clarity on the dog policy in Rye Town Park, Gold provided the following:
“In light of recent events involving unleashed dogs in and around the City of Rye, please be reminded that Rye Town Park is NOT a Dog Park! Rye Town Park is a passive-use park for people, where dogs are welcome under the following conditions:
• Leashed dogs are welcome at all hours of the day.
• Unleashed dogs are welcome seven days a week between 6-9:30 a.m. through the end of March in the designated area, if they are registered with the City of Rye/Rye Town Park as directed in the Rye City Code 76-5 (amended 10/22/2014 by L.L. No.8-2014).
• Dogs are never allowed on the beach at Rye Town Park, leashed or unleashed.”
The first draft of the Town Park budget was discussed on February 7 and focused on park revenue sources. Due to a sunny 2022 beach season and the temporary closure of Playland Beach, sales of daily beach passes were up last year, and Rye Town Park finished the season in the black. Without tax dollars to support the ongoing maintenance of the park, however, park operations are often at the mercy of the weather.
Resident permits are on sale, with minimal fee increases,for the 2023 season. As staff and commissioners made clear, buying a permit is an important guaranteed revenue source for the park. Family permits for residents (beach access, plus parking) season are $277.
Barley BeachHouse continues to offer specials – Fish Fry Friday, Prime Rib on Saturdays, happy hours, and live music — in hopes of staying busy through winter and into the spring. The deck has been open on warm days and residents can be seen enjoying lunch outside. Owner Chris Surace presented initial ideas for 2023 events to the Commission. Plans are underway for an Easter EggHunt and a Pancakes in the Park event, as well as a Moth live storytelling event, Story Boom, and an arts event in partnership with ArtsWestchester.
Surace was pleased to report that healthier items, including fresh-pressed juices, will be added to the North Gate concession menu this summer. After his presentation, the Commission made clear their desire to balance the passive nature of the park, that residents appreciate, and the need to attract visitors and generate revenue.
Capital needs continue to grow, but the municipalities that represent the park — Rye City, and the villages of Rye Brook, Port Chester, and the Rye Neck portion of Mamaroneck — have little appetite for taking on big capital expenditures. Rye Town staff continue to seek state grants to meet the infrastructure needs of the deteriorating parking lot, bath house, and bath tunnels. Preliminary estimates for renovation of the interior of the bath house, including the administrative offices, total $250,000. Residents interested in taking on such a fund-raising challenge are welcome to join the conversation.