HUDSON — The community will have its say on how to redesign Oakdale Park to increase recreation.
What used to be a bustling park with ice skating, barbecues and luaus, the lake has largely been limited to fishing and swimming in recent years. Its beach house has fallen into disrepair and its shoreline fishing is limited to one pier.
But one group is trying to change that.
The Friends of Oakdale Lake — a group of active city residents — banded together earlier this year to increase recreational opportunities at the park and bring awareness to one of the city’s most underused resources.
“The whole idea is to get the community involved in looking at one of most valuable and incredible assets the city has,” said Tamar Adler, founder of Friends of Oakdale Lake. “Great cities have great parks. What is unique and rare about Oakdale is that it is not only a city park, but it also has a lake that you can swim, boat and fish in. We just think it needs some help and investment.”
The 14-acre public park in Hudson, located off North Sixth Street, includes the 5-acre spring-fed lake, a small sand beach, a half-mile of trails, a small playground and a basketball court.
Some city residents have called for more fishing piers, docks or entry points into the water and for renovations to the lake’s beach house, according to the Friends of Oakdale website.
“The benches and tables are all worn, the beach house threadbare,” according to the website. “The crumbling infrastructure contributes to the feeling of neglect that makes both the lake’s current users and potential users feel as though they’re facing something subpar, instead of something beautiful, wonderful, a lovely, magical oasis in the heart of a city. Refurbishing or rebuilding is needed.”
The lake is treated annually with enzymes and is the cleanest body of water in the county tested by the Columbia County Department of Health, according to the website.
The Friends of Oakdale Lake is partnering with the Hudson Valley Initiative at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning to research conceptual designs to improve ecological and recreational opportunities at the lake.
“Doing the research, Hudson Valley Initiative seemed like the perfect fit,” Adler said. “What I like about them is that they don’t design for a community, they design with a community.”
The redesign process will take place this summer and autumn with a design plan in place by 2019, Adler said.
The first session will take place Aug. 6 and will collect input from the young campers at Oakdale Lake Summer Camp. Future meetings for city residents will be announced next month, Adler said.
“I am super-excited about this whole process and the fact that people are coming together as part of a community effort,” 1st Ward Alderman Kamal Johnson said.
Johnson, who grew up in Hudson, often swam and fished in the lake as a child.
“I think, over the years, people have kind of forgotten about Oakdale,” he said. “We don’t see a lot of fishing, catching frogs and turtles, like we did when I was younger. People will drive 25 minutes and drive right past Oakdale to go to Lake Taghkanic.
“There hasn’t been anything new or innovative at Oakdale,” Johnson added. “There hasn’t been any pride in Oakdale. I think that is what needs to come back that sense of community that took place at Oakdale.”
Allowing the city’s youth to be part of the design process will give the children a sense of ownership over their park, Johnson said.
“They can see their ideas come to fruition and there is nothing better than that,” he said. “And that is a very exciting thing. They will want to come to the lake more and show their families what they helped design.”
The Friends of Hudson Youth and Friends of Oakdale Lake will throw its inaugural Oakdale Lake Picnic on Thursday.
The free party will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. at the lake and include free hot dogs with pickles made by Oakdale campers, ice cream and a DJ.
Representatives from Friends of Hudson Youth, Friends of Oakdale Lake and the Hudson Valley Initiative will be available to discuss plans for improvement of Oakdale Lake and organizational goals and results.
A new exhibit, “Oakdale Past & Future,” co-created by the Hudson Area Library, Friends of Hudson Youth and Friends of Oakdale Lake, will also be on display.
The exhibit includes black-and-white photographs of Oakdale Lake in its heyday, maps and quotes from early Oakdale Lake plans, beginning in 1911, an original color 1995 plan that includes design elements not implemented and a history of city residents at Hudson’s lake.
For more information on the Friends of Oakdale Lake, visit friendsofoakdalelake.com.
*Editor’s note: This story clarifies an earlier version. Redesign process of Oakdale Park started this summer and will be completed in 2019. There is no set construction start date.