Sunday, April 19, 2009

Reservoir Plans Due May 2 by Jeremy Walsh -

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Steve Fiedler, chairman of Community Board 5’s Parks Committee, discusses the potential improvements to park facilities at Ridgewood Reservoir during a CB 5 meeting. Photo by Jeremy Walsh

As the landscape architect for Ridgewood Reservoir finalizes three distinct options for developing the park, neighbors are calling on the city to recognize that the reservoir’s fate is linked to that of Highland Park.

Mark K. Morrison Associates will present an “active recreation plan” to convert at least one dry basin into artificial−turf ballfields; a “passive recreation” plan to preserve the vegetation that has grown there; and a combination of the two during a public meeting May 2 at 11 a.m. at Ridgewood’s IS 77, at 976 Seneca Ave.

But as these designs are fleshed out, community leaders are pressing the city to apply parts of the $50 million reservoir budget on improvements to the rest of Highland Park, which is split between Queens and Brooklyn, and encompasses more than 140 acres, including the Ridgewood Reservoir.

The park contains six ballfields in various states of disrepair, and Friends of Greater Highland Park⁄Ridgewood Reservoir member Thomas Dowd said many youth baseball coaches and other Brooklyn residents using Highland Park have been attending the city Parks Department’s listening sessions and calling for the conversion of the reservoir basins due to the poor condition of their own facilities.

Steve Fiedler, chairman of CB 5’s Parks Committee, introduced a board resolution asking that between $10 million and $15 million of the Ridgewood Reservoir budget be dedicated to the ballfields in Highland Park. It passed unanimously at last week’s meeting.

“Instead of getting these ballfields fixed up, it’s like, ‘Let’s infringe on what is now essentially a nature preserve,’” he said.

Some $7.5 million will be spent on upgrading the rim of the park, including staircases, a perimeter path and a trail between two of the basins, Dowd said. He also warned that plans to build the artificial−turf ballfields in the basins overlook the fact that the plant species growing there are predominantly wetland species.

“If we put kids down there playing baseball, they’re going to get their feet wet,” he said.

Ridgewood Reservoir was constructed in 1858 to serve Brooklyn. The three basins comprising the 50−acre reservoir site were last used during the drought of 1965 and were drained in 1989.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.