The Town of Hamburg has taken a proactive approach to assessing its current and near-future recreational needs and seeking out various means to fund those needs without burdening taxpayers.
The Hamburg Town Board is expected to soon select a firm to update its Master Plan for Parks, Recreation and Open Space, setting the course for the newly established Hamburg Recreation Foundation, a 501c-3 corporation, which will then be able to apply for grants and set fund-raisers for specific needs. A special committee is reviewing proposals submitted in early December by six firms. The Master Plan Review Panel is in the “final stages,” said Martin C. Denecke, a Panel member and director of the town’s Department of Youth, Recreation and Senior Services, and will send its recommendation to the Town Board this month.
In conjunction with establishing the Foundation and updating its recreation master plan, the town has created three new enterprise funds to better manage facilities using the revenue each generates.
Enterprise funds were established for Woodlawn Beach State Park, the Town Ice Arena and Hamburg Town Park as part of the budget process last November and took effect Jan. 1.
Previous to that date, the 18 Mile Creek Golf Course had been the only facility managed with an enterprise fund.
Supervisor Steven J. Walters had sought to create an enterprise fund for Woodlawn Beach since February 2011, but was unable to get the proposal passed by the Town Board until recently. He said Denecke suggested creating an enterprise fund for the Town Arena, as well.
The Foundation was established early last year as a vehicle to raise funds and seek grants for the enhancement of parks and facilities and possible additions after Walters investigated similar steps by surrounding towns. “Our Foundation is fairly new, but the board members have been appointed and the bylaws passed, “ said Walters. “They have yet to hold their first function, although they have done some minor things along they way, such as a community bottle return.
Their first function is something I am looking forward to. This is a great opportunity for the town and Recreation department to expand their program.”
“The master plan will be a road map to where we want to go,” said Denecke. “The Foundation asks the question ‘how do we create a recreational consensus’ and the answer to that question is to update the master plan. As the master plan is created with input from our citizens, interest groups, business and town officials, that consensus we are looking for is built. Once that process is complete, we are all working together on the same plan. From there the Foundation will be able to showcase our dreams, while creatively and aggressively soliciting funding sources that will bring the plan to life.
“We want the winning firm’s proposal to look at our assets and deficiencies and hold public outreach meetings with our stakeholders, people who use our programs, and to do surveys in the community. A priorities list would be developed from the general public for such things as an indoor field house or pool,” Denecke said.
The last recreation master plan was created in 1994 and some of the projects in it have been implemented and others never were as they became obsolete, Denecke said. The update will cover a five-year period to allow recreation staff and town officials to regularly review the plan’s recommendations and prioritize them. “Funding sources could determine the priority where less expensive projects or grant accessibility could determine whether to go ahead,” Denecke said. The plan will be reviewed every year. “We will cross things off the list as they happen or consider factors that may come into play, making them less advisable,” Denecke said.
“Steve Walters began this initiative back when the town was looking at privatizing the Ice Arena as there are no current resources for expansion. Looking at our goals, first we had to look at how to sustain what we already have, keeping up the facilities; then finding ways to improve, expand or develop,” said Denecke. “The way was to create a foundation separate from the town.” The Foundation can then pursue fundraising efforts, grants and seek assistance from community groups.”
“The Foundation will be integral to the town’s development and enhancement of new programs and facilities,” said Walters. “It’s a good way to raise additional funds that go for recreation. Other towns have been successful at this and serve as a model. In Clarence, community activities are part of the function,” he said.
Partnerships will also help offset costs. Back in the late 1990s, the town turned to the Rotary Club of Hamburg to fund a new baseball field at the Recreation Center on Lakeview Road. Rotary Field I was built, along with two picnic shelters. Currently, the same service organization is raising funds to convert a former soccer field into a second baseball field, which will be called Rotary Field II. “This goes hand in hand with what we want to do in finding outside sources from the community,” Denecke said.
Some recreation development in the past has been initiated without considering the plan, sometimes without a thoughtful approach toward the big picture, Denecke said. “We all need to be working on the same plan and make the design as symmetrical as possible. Having an updated document constructed with community input will add strength to its significance and keep us adhered to the plan.”
Denecke said the Foundation fund-raising efforts will be guided by the master plan, striving to enhance recreational facilities and programs the public wants without tapping the general fund.
The new enterprise funds for the Town Park, Ice Arena and Woodlawn Beach will allow each facility their own budget, with the ultimate goal to have them operate at least at break-even level.
“Ideally, as we increase efficiencies, surpluses can be created, and those funds would be re-invested into the particular facility,” Denecke said. “As we begin this new approach, the general fund will likely continue to support these areas, but we will aggressively seek alternative funding to offset those shortfalls.
“The master plan directs how to seek and spend money. The enterprise fund provides the possibility for additional funding to match what we’re trying to do with the master plan, for example, if the ice rink had a surplus, and there was a need for a new pad of ice, that could be paid for from the surplus,” Denecke said.
Besides Denecke, members of the Master Plan Review Panel are: Thomas Best, Sr., superintendant of Buildings and Grounds; Gerard Kapsiak, town engineer; Richard Crandall, longtime former chair of the town Planning Board and former head of the Erie County Planning Department, and Alexander Nastevski, practicing engineer and member of the town Recreation Foundation board.
The committee will recommend to the Town Board the firm they feel has provided the best plan based on cost, competency and approach. The chosen firm is expected to complete the update after months of surveys and public outreach with stakeholders to identify projects or facilities that are desired and to create priorities over a five-year period and their potential funding source.