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Cumberland officials could adopt park plan

October 15, 2013

CUMBERLAND – The Town Council will consider a resolution adopting an updated master plan for Diamond Hill Park tonight.
The 375-acre Diamond Hill Park on Diamond Hill Road is a multi-use facility that includes several athletic fields, a band shell overlooking a pond and numerous picnic spots and hiking trails. For the past 10 years or so, the town has been trying to come up with ways to improve the park.
The updated master plan, which specifically focuses on ways to improve the usability of the band shell as well as other parts of the park, was drafted by the Cumberland-based Gifford Design Group, which studied the park for about a year and held two public meetings with residents and other stakeholders last fall.
The council will consider adopting the plan at its meeting tonight at 7:30 at Town Hall, 45 Broad St.
While the updated master plan re-establishes many of the same recommendations cited in the original plan drafted in 1998, the new document focuses on two priority initiatives – improving the music pavilion by building handicapped access and filling the pond in front to eliminate safety hazards, and renovating the parking lot, which crumbling and plagued by potholes.
Specifically, the plan is to fill in the existing pond and turn it into a grassy seating area, and then build a smaller pond directly behind the stage.
Kelly Nickson Morris, director of the Office of Planning and Community Development, said the application to fill the pond is pending before the Department of Environmental Management’s wetlands division, which needs to approve the application before the town can move forward with the project.
“Right now, there is no timeline or definite start day,” said Morris, adding the town still needs to secure grants to fund the project.
At the two public meetings held last year by Gifford Design Group, Inc. and the town’s Planning Department, residents were in agreement that the existing pond makes for a less than ideal performance venue. Several residents pointed out that the water basin in front of the stage presents numerous problems for performers and the audience, including the potential of falling in, and that there is not enough closeness to the stage to properly enjoy performances.
As a result, concert producers do not want to book concerts and there has been less and less usage by local groups.
At one of the public meetings, some residents expressed concerns about possible increased traffic and noise and opposed any improvements to the band shell area. However, other residents stated that large events, such as CumberlandFest, take place there already and that attendance at concerts would be limited by the constrained parking spaces at the site.
The updated master plan that goes before the council tonight also reestablishes the improvement recommendations documented in the 1998 plan, including:
*Constructing a playground.
*Building a new park entrance.
*Improving the existing picnic and removing existing fire and barbecue pits and install picnic tables in their place.
*Building a safe handicapped accessible access fro the picnic grove to the north pond.
*Installing a small dock for kayaks and canoes.
*Repairing the old ski slope to make it a safer hillside venue for sledding
*Renovating the first aid station and restrooms.
*Improving the network of trails.
*Installing signage.
*Upgrading the existing ski lodge.

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