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Baisley Pond Park facelift should attract more visitors

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It may take a few years, but Baisley Pond Park in southeast Queens has been promised a new look as a way to draw more area residents into the green space.

The Baisley Pond Park Coalition held a brainstorming session with about 15 community members last Thursday to begin a project to transform the public spaces in the park in South Jamaica and help revitalize the community, said Howard Walters, co-chairman of the coalition.

The project is the result of a $35,000 planning grant from the J.M. Kaplan Foundation, which will go to the Project for Public Spaces, a nonprofit organization that is leading the community in the initial design phase.

“When we’re doing placemaking, we look to the community to provide the expertise for turning any place around,” said Phil Myrick, of the Project for Public Spaces. The term “placemaking” refers to the process of renovating a public space.

“We don’t want to be in the way here,” he said.

The goal of the project is to make Baisley Pond Park a more inviting and vibrant place so that it will draw more people to the park and the surrounding community, Myrick said.

“There aren’t enough interesting things happening in the park and because of that you’re not getting the attention and ownership in the park to make it interesting and to keep it clean,” he said. “We want to created a community-centered institution, where the community and the institution are supporting each other.”

Myrick cited some of the problems that can be found in the park, including a lack of access, especially crosswalks and entrances into the park and paths that do not connect areas of the park the way they should.

But it was up to the meeting’s participants to go into the park and evaluate an area in four categories: accessibility, comfort, activities – including playgrounds and other park structures – and sociability, which measures how people interact with others in the park, such as at chess games.

“What we really want to see happen is all these groups center around this great place that Baisley Pond Park already is,” said Elena Madison, of the Project for Public Spaces.

The park covers about 110 acres of land and includes a large pond, home to eight different kinds of water fowl, the widest variety of any park in Queens, Walters said. At the north end of the pond is a lawn with baseball diamonds and at the south end, below Rockaway Boulevard, is the sports complex with more diamonds and other fields. A promenade, gazebo, and war memorial also line the pond.

Although the planning phase, which is expected to last about nine months, has just begun, Walters hopes the new ideas for the park will place an emphasis on nature, he said.

“I’d like to see the park, especially the pond area, remain as friendly to wildlife as possible,” he said. “We could increase the greenery where people can go and relax and enjoy nature as opposed to an artificial environment.”

A recreation center is also a possibility, and Walters hopes to hold activities like a midnight walk for families around the pond.

Baisley Pond Park was chosen for the project because of its location and special qualities, said Peter Crumlish of the Partnership for Parks, which arranged the grant for the park.

“We were looking for a park that is large or important to the community in some way,” he said. “In terms of Baisley, it’s a very large park with a natural feature in a neighborhood with a low density population. It’s mostly residential here.”

And over the next few months, and possibly for years to come, Crumlish hopes the community will set the tone for the park.

“We want a real voice for the park coming from as wide a variety of people as we can get,” he said. “We want them to articulate their vision and move everything forward. Hopefully, it will continue to evolve.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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