Downtown park, streets in Potsdam to get major makeover this summer
Sunday, April 27, 2014 - 8:43 am

By CRAIG FREILICH

POTSDAM – Downtown will receive a big facelift with a major paving project, replacement of many fruit trees along sidewalks and a massive makeover of Ives Park.

When complete, all major downtown streets will sport a new layer of asphalt. Downtown pedestrians will no longer have to walk on half-spoiled fruit covering the sidewalks each fall. And the park behind the Clarkson Inn will feature a new walkway and measures designed to discourage Canada geese from walking and pooping on the grass.

For many pedestrians, the most significant improvement may be replacement of the trees along downtown sidewalks.

No Fruit Trees

The last batch of trees planted along downtown streets -- Mongolian pear trees -- were thought to be very hardy and would work downtown, until the pears dropped off the trees and made a stinky mess that attracted yellow-jackets.

The new plantings will probably be a mix of five or six kinds, compact varieties such as the Japanese tree lilac or compact maples, said Potsdam Planning and Development Director Fred Hanss.

“The village will be planting a variety of trees, 22 in all, downtown this fall,” he said.

“There will be NO fruit trees, or anything with pits or nuts or acorns. They’re not suitable along streets in the downtown commercial district. In a park they would be okay, but not downtown.”

The trees will be planted in the fall. Hanss said DPW crews will be busy with the work at Ives Park before then. “That’s really the opportune time to plant trees, when there are much higher survival rates.”

Ives Park Reconstruction

The improvements at Ives Park, for which a groundbreaking was held last August, will get underway in earnest when the village Department of Public Works begins laying 2,500 feet of new wider sidewalks in the riverside park.

The project will also attempt to discourage Canada geese at the park – and their depositing annoying droppings.

The work “should start in mid- to late-May, when they can get to it” without mud hampering them, said Hanss.

Hanss said the village DPW crew will “be using the expertise and equipment at their disposal to be able to access those really helpful state and federal grants” while supplying the village’s share of the project expenses with their work.

The main walkway in Ives Park at the entrance will be eight feet wide, and farther along it will be six feet wide. It will lead, at the far end of the park, to a five-foot-wide stone dust “riverwalk” path loop.

The riverwalk will connect to similar walking and bicycle routes to Fall Island Park and to Clarkson University’s Munter Trail, which follows the river shoreline from its campus to the village limits at Bayside Cemetery.

Also part of the plan is new lighting with 25 LED fixtures, which were put up by the village DPW last summer and fall.

Part of the grant funding also went to design and site in the plan a new pavilion for the farmers’ market off the back on the Main Street parking lot. The funds are being raised to actually build the pavilion, so its construction is not scheduled.

Goose-Repelling Plants

Landscaping along the bank will be fairly extensive.

Among the considerations in planning the shrubbery and grasses was to find a way to keep geese from the park. Each year there are complaints from citizens about the amount of droppings on the grass.

“Right now, there are so many resident geese that it can become a problem,” said Hanss.

“We looked at several alternatives to separate the geese from the park,” he said. “And we want to stabilize the shoreline with native plants.

“Right up to the outside edge of the sidewalk there will be native plants, on the tall side. The thinking is that, once they plantings are established, the geese would not readily be able to see the water from the park, so they won’t land there.”

The DPW will also be moving the canoe and kayak launch slightly upriver and upgrading it to make it more accessible. The iron-rail fence at the entrance to the park is to be reconditioned.

There will be a riverwalk swing near the new launch, and “more park furniture, such as benches,” will be installed, Hanss said. The gazebo will be staying where it is.

A lot of landscaping will be done. Some tree work in the park has already been done, Hanss said.

“An anonymous donor gave us 20 trees. They were planted in 2012, and they have survived so far, so they are established” and are making their contribution to the improved landscape.

“All the permitting is done,” and the job should be complete by early- to mid-September, said Hanss.

Much of the project’s costs are covered by funds from the state’s Regional Council initiative. The project is described as a “Regional Council priority project.”

Downtown Paving

While that is going on, the state Department of Transportation will be overseeing the milling and repaving of the downtown “loop” sections of Main Street, Park Street, Elm Street and Market Street and, with a separate contract, paving Market Street out to the Price Chopper plaza.

The hole paving project will cost about half a million dollars, according to DOT Region 7 spokesman Michael Flick.

“We’re working with the village and town to miss big events” such as graduations and the annual Potsdam Summer Festival, Flick said.

The milling is expected to begin during the first week of June and the whole job will likely be done within four weeks, according to Flick. He does not expect the paving to require any overnight work.

He gives the usual warnings: there will be traffic delays, and traffic will, at times, be directed by flaggers.