The first phase of upgrades to Highland Park, which features restored pathways, new lighting, new fencing and wheelchair-accessible entry points are completed.
“The improvements are well done,” said Vince Arcuri, chairman of Community Board 5. “Very nicely done for a phase one project.”
The hope is that the improvements will lead to a friendlier visit for pedestrians going to the Ridgewood Reservoir, which is now part of the park.
“With these improvements, the reservoir is a great place for exercise or a nature walk,” said Zachary Feder, Parks Department spokesman.
Park visitors seem to be enjoying the changes.
“It’s really good for running, the tracks are smooth so they are very comfortable,” said Brooklyn native and runner, Christopher Sanchez. “The stairs look wonderful and are great for working out.”
David Flowers, a Brooklyn resident and frequent visitor said the changes make it good for runners. “It looks a lot better than other parts of the park,” Flowers added.
Enrique Quinones has lived near the park for 26 years and frequently visits. “So far it looks pretty good,” he said. “It is good for bicycles, skating, running, walking and just exercising. The stairs are good for a workout.”
Area resident, Freddy Tonno, enjoys one major feature of the improvements. “It is much cleaner then before,” Tonno said. “It’s great.”
Phase one is just the start for improvements at the reservoir.
“The master plan looks to me to be a 25- year plan to be completed in phases,” Arcuri said. “The next phase is to breach the existing walls of the reservoir.”
The Parks Department is now finalizing designs to decommission the reservoir’s dam, which is required by state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations, Feder said.
The Parks Department’s master plan will not only help reconstruct the Ridgewood Reservoir, but will improve the park’s infrastructure while giving back to the community, the spokesman said.
“With varying degrees of development from plan to plan, potential amenities include pedestrian networks, opportunities for active and passive recreation, new playgrounds, educational opportunities, as well as an abundance of preserved natural areas,” Feder added. Each phase would require funding.
While the first phase did make some improvements to the park, there is still more to be done.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) believes there is a need for more of an environmental draw. “As of now you cannot walk in the reservoir area, but you will be able to one day,” Crowley said.
The councilwoman thinks that the reservoir attracts people. The more that are attracted, she said, the more people will enjoy the paths and will also provide a peaceful setting for runners and families.
Crowley also hopes to see an environmental center focused on the park’s bird life that will be implemented after January. Crowley is hopeful it can be completed by next year.
Arcuri believes the park needs to ups its security.
“My only concern is there is no security to keep an eye on things,” he said. “They need a system of park enforcement police.”
He also wants a pedestrian bridge added. This would prevent people from having to cross a busy street to get from the parking lot to the reservoir side of the park.
“A pedestrian bridge would be good and efficient,” Arcuri said.
Park visitors also have suggestions they would like to see implemented. Tonno wants mile markers so he is aware of how far he has walked.
Sanchez thinks the main park needs “fixing up. Also more barbeque stands to bring the family.”
Quinones has a dream of seeing a public swimming pool added to the property.
The reservoir is located on the Brooklyn-Queens border and became a part of Highland Park a few years ago.
“I encourage people to take advantage of it before the seasons change,” Crowley said. “It’s beautiful.”