Ithaca Blog

Friday, June 29, 2007

Stewart Park: Big Park, Lean Budget

The problems at Stewart Park cited in Ithaca Blog this past week can be officially attributed to something:


Ithaca Blog spoke to Rick Ferrell, of the Public Works Department. We asked Mr. Ferrell about park maintenance and improvements, strategies, and budgets.

Mr. Ferrell said, "We had tough times with budgets through the '90's and the first couple of years of the 2000's." He said that the annual budget for Stewart Park is $90,000 for all labor and materials.

There is one full-time worker at Stewart Park, and one seasonal worker in the summer. Mr. Ferrell said that at one time there were 4 seasonal workers.

There is no money regularly designated for capital improvements. Such funds come only through a special application process with the city, which considers them in the context of all applications from all city departments.

" No, 'competition' is the right word," Mr. Ferrell said, when asked if competition was too strong a word for the process.

Cleaning the shoreline is a job that requires additional workers and additional budget. Thus it only happens once every 6 or 7 years, when Public Works' turn comes around.

The closing of the concession stand also comes from budget shortages. Mr. Ferrell says the building needs work on its roof and interior, and upgrades for access for the disabled. Which might or might not ever happen?, he was asked. "No, it will happen eventually," he said.

Recent complaints about the conditions of the restroom have been addressed, Mr. Ferrell says. He said that heavy use of the park by day camps and other youth groups on certain days results in a need for extra maintenance, and he has discussed the matter with park personnel.

Complaints about goose droppings are not so easily addressed. "I wish I had an answer for that one," Mr. Ferrell said, noting the scope of the problem in parks throughout the northeast.

One thing we didn't think to ask Mr. Ferrell was whether he thought input from the public to the city could help prioritize Stewart Park's needs. In retrospect we guess he'd say it couldn't hurt. That's what we would say, anyway, now that we know how much the condition of the park is a matter of money.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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