Elmont Road Park, once a hub for recreation and play for Elmont families and children before falling into decay over decades, was reopened on Friday, June 17 following a long-awaited $3 million renovation project.
Renovations to the park, which began last July, include a brand-new multi-use sports field, renovated basketball and handball courts, a perimeter walking path, a new adult fitness area, new playgrounds and a new water play area, renovated seating areas, upgraded lighting and security features and improved accessibility.
The park, which was once a sump where local children drowned during the 1940s-1950s, was at the heart of the community during the 1990s and 2000s. The park deteriorated over time due to lack of interest and effort on the part of the Town of Hempstead, according to local elected officials and community members.
“The Town of Hempstead has put very little energy into Elmont Road Park,” said Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages.
During its decay, a broken drainage system led to pooling water, creating a shuffle board area that was a “glorified pond,” and the park’s basketball courts were cracked and withering away, Solages said, adding that these were only a few of the many issues plaguing the park.
The community has voiced strong support for the major rehabilitation of the park. “We heard loud and clear that the community wanted a new park,” Solages said.
The Belmont Park Community Advisory Committee, comprised of local elected officials and community members, struck a deal with the developers of the UBS Arena project that modifications would be made to Hendrickson Park on Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont, and that a multimillion-dollar renovation project would be completed at Elmont Road Park.
Need for park at all-time high
With the school year set to end on June 28, local children were in need of a central location to play during the summer in Elmont if the park failed to reopen soon.
“Parks are really a central community gathering place in all communities,” Solages said.
Additionally, she said the rise in inflation and record-high gas prices are forcing families to skip vacations this summer, elevating the need for a local park for families and children to visit.
“Having a local community park where people can walk to is essential,” she said, adding that this space is needed for recreation and play and as a site to enjoy nature for local families.
Solages said residents grew antsy with the slow pace of the renovations and that community groups and local sports organizations are eager to hold tournaments and activities in the park this summer.
During a Community Advisory Committee meeting last week, community members and the town agreed to an unofficial reopening of the park by June 28, but the gates to the park were unexpectedly unlocked on the morning of June 17, and the park was reopened.
“Having a soft opening where the doors are open and kids can play is a first step in getting the park open and letting people know it’s open and available for the community,” Solages said.
Redevelopment is not fully finished
The major renovations at Elmont Road Park are finished, but minor safety improvements are being planned and residents are calling for added changes.
Jon Johnson, president of the Elmont Cardinals Sports Club, a nonprofit youth sports organization, said he spoke to residents at the park the day after it opened and that the community is happy with the park’s new look.
But Johnson said there are four main items residents would like to see added to the park: New benches or repainting of existing benches, additional entrance/exit points to the park (there is currently only one point of entry/exit to the park); a concession stand or vending machines providing food and sports drinks to keep children from venturing outside the park; and video cameras monitoring the park and signage making residents aware of the cameras.
Despite these requests, community members have expressed satisfaction with the park’s reopening. “We now have a central hub for our kids,” Johnson said.
He emphasized the role the park can play in encouraging outdoor activity following two years of remaining indoors during the pandemic.
“Coming off of COVID-19, it’s going to be really good to get kids outside playing at the park,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the new football field serves as an all-purpose athletic field and allows for night games to be held. He said Elmont Cardinal Football is now scheduling its home games at the park. Johnson stressed that the opening of the park is just the beginning of the new role the park can play for the Elmont community.
“This is a start, it isn’t a finish,” he said. “It’s going to revitalize Elmont.”
Johnson said residents are dedicated to creating a joint community-Town of Hempstead oversight committee to ensure the upkeep of the renovations and that any other required work is done in a timely fashion. He added that this committee could hold fundraisers and obtain state and federal grants for the park’s upkeep.