By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
COXSACKIE — The state unveiled the renovated Riverside Park in the village of Coxsackie on Wednesday, the first in a series of projects along the Hudson River between Albany and Kingston.
Construction on the $3.2 million project began in September and was completed on time. The park, which has been closed for the past nine months, has now reopened for business.
“As we kick off the Memorial Day weekend, I welcome you all to this revitalized park and the amazing destinations it leads to — Coxsackie is officially the first gateway to the Hudson Eagles Recreation Area,” Erik Kulleseid, commissioner of New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, told the crowd. “Today we are launching the first phase of this linear destination — the Hudson Eagles Recreation Area — a new chapter in the effort to expand and consolidate the gains along this river for recreation, tourism and wildlife. This river is the pulsing artery of one of the most historic, picturesque and ecologically vibrant river valleys on this continent.”
The Hudson Eagles Recreation Area is an initiative to improve public access to the Hudson River and enhance connections to the waterfront communities along the river.
“The goal of the Hudson Eagles Recreation Area concept is to salute the resurgence of our nation’s great raptor and symbol, and to invite boaters — motorized and nonmotorized — to experience the river from the river itself,” Kulleseid said. “The river is still an untapped recreation source in many ways, but here we can see how that can change. Coxsackie Riverside Park is sure to become a big destination for boating and fishing on the river, for access to other sites on the river, and to be a better community asset for the village of Coxsackie.”
The newly renovated park was reopened to a large crowd, including fourth and fifth graders from nearby Coxsackie Elementary School. The children were excited to view the reopening of the park that has been closed since September, teacher Jennifer Rausch said.
“Fourth grade came because we have a community service program and usually we come down and clean up the park and do our service here. Unfortunately, we couldn’t come this year, but today we are here to be part of the park’s reopening,” Rausch said. “Fifth grade is here because they did their community service here last year and they wanted to be down here to see the new park. They are all excited.”
One of the central improvements to Riverside Park was the construction of a large open-air pavilion where community events will be held, including the weekly Coxsackie Farmers Market in the warmer months. The project also included new trees, landscaping and seating; improved bike and pedestrian connections between the waterfront and downtown; new sidewalks and signage, including signs facing the water for arriving or passing boaters; and a renovated basketball court.
New floating gangways were added to the boat launch, along with new docks and an Americans With Disabilities-compliant kayak launch. Environmental improvements include a new boat wash station to reduce the spread of aquatic invasive species, a rain garden to control stormwater, electric-vehicle charging stations and LED lighting fixtures, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office.
“The transformation here is unbelievable and we look forward to all the wonderful things that will happen here in this beautiful new [pavilion] and along the water,” said Alane Chinian, regional director for NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Coxsackie Mayor Mark Evans said he was first approached by the state in February 2020, right before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, to discuss the village’s vision for Riverside Park.
“We walked the park on probably the coldest day of the year but with an excitement about the possibilities,” Evans said.
The park — and the renovated gazebo that has long been a cherished component of the park — are a vital feature of life in Coxsackie, Evans said.
“This park gets so much use on a daily basis. On Wednesdays, the farmers market is the place to be with hundreds of people here,” Evans said. “In August, our annual Riverside Festival draws thousands of people, we have the summer movie night, the summer children’s recreation program that utilizes the park, the sloop Clearwater visits a couple of times a year and it hosts countless weddings, anniversaries, reunions and celebrations.”
“We all wanted and needed this new park,” Evans added. “It is a morale booster for the village and the town and the surrounding area.”
John Lipscomb from the advocacy group Riverkeeper pointed to another area, the Palisades, north of the George Washington Bridge, that was once a quarry and is now a vibrant ecological gem. He envisions a similar future for the areas along the Hudson River.
“Now we have a generation that has that same powerful vision for giving an equivalent grand-scale gift to the Hudson River, the communities on its shores, the wildlife that lives on it,” Lipscomb said. “This grand-scale initiative that Parks [Department] is leading is going to bring attention to the river, it will bring funding to the river, and we are going to get to restore some of the damage [that has been done]. It’s an extraordinary historic event and initiative, and we couldn’t be prouder of Parks.”