The park is named in honor of late Town of Lloyd Supervisor Bob Shepard, a river enthusiast and tremendous supporter of securing river access.
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful place and it’s just so calming and restoring to watch the river go by,” said Barbara Shepard, his widow.
In spite of intermittent showers, dozens gathered for the 1 p.m. outdoor ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“I’m sure that Bob [Shepard] is looking down [on us today] -- from the bright side,” said Project Director Matt Smith, gesturing to a break in the clouds.
A mini-grant from the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission funded the celebration.
“We’re finally reconnected with our river, which is appropriate, because it’s the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage of discovery,” said Smith.
Booths by local organizations, music, refreshments, children’s games and an historical display inside the soon-to-be environmental educational center were enjoyed by the attendees.
Once completed, the park will feature an approximately 800-foot “riverwalk” with self-guided historical tour, a refurbished boat launch, a separate kayak and canoe launch, fishing and picnic areas, a gazebo for river gazing and music in the park and an educational center for use by local schools.
The town purchased the former fuel terminal from RiverStar, Inc. in March 2008, which was dotted with the imposing husks of discarded oil tanks.
“It’s an amazing transformation,” said Seth McKey, land conservation director at Scenic Hudson, of the park today.
It is the only public Hudson access point for Lloyd and several surrounding towns. “The critics say this park is too small to amount to anything... River Road across to Poughkeepsie Shore, Crumb Elbow to Marlborough... That’s a lot of real estate,” said Costantino.
He credited Smith and Claire Costantino with driving the 15-year mission to ensure that Highland residents have the opportunity to bond with their local waterway and thanked the numerous volunteers that worked to realize their dream.
Under Smith’s direction a group of skilled volunteers has been working for several years, using donated equipment and materials, to clear, grade, fill and revitalize the park. The volunteered labor to date is valued at $100,000.
Thus far, the park has incurred no burden on the town’s taxpayers.
Grants and low-interest loans were obtained from New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Scenic Hudson and the town’s revolving loan fund. The Town of Lloyd has received additional grants totaling over $100,000 from the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Estuary Program and the Hudson River Valley Greenway to build a parking lot and entrance/exit facilities, the canoe/kayak launch site and the historic river walk.
Costantino credited Senator Bill Larkin (R-New Windsor) with securing the grant to furnish the park’s environmental education center.
The project earned a New York Department of State Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant of $911,904. That money is slated for new bulkhead construction, deep water dock repair and the boat launch ramp. Once the bulkhead is reconstructed, it will provide visitors with safe access to water-related activities and allow tour boats and historic vessels, such as the Clearwater and Half Moon, to dock at the site.
The park will ultimately link up with the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and the Walkway Over the Hudson, the longest over-river pedestrian park in the world, which will celebrate its grand opening in October.
“It’s not usually desirable to be in anyone’s shadow, but in this case, we’re honored to be in the shadow of the Walkway Over the Hudson,” said Smith.