The Richmond Town Board recently voted to create a new municipal parks and open space H district, a tool to help preserve the town’s recreational properties as spaces dedicated to public enjoyment and the conservation of natural resources.
The district will become official once amended zoning regulations and maps are filed with the secretary of state and Ontario County Planning Board. Councilmember Steve Barnhoorn, who guided the zoning amendment through the approval process, said Richmond is joining the city of Canandaigua as one of the first towns in Ontario County with a dedicated parks district.
“We are among the municipalities at the forefront,” Barnhoorn said. “The town is changing beneath our feet and we need to keep pace.”
The revision to the Richmond’s zoning map was inspired by a recommendation in the town’s comprehensive plan, crafted in 2004, which suggested that unimproved land off East Lake Road gifted to Richmond by 3M should be changed from industrial to recreational zoning.
The new H district, which affects only land owned by the town, encompasses all of Sandy Bottom Park, including the original park at the north end of Honeoye Lake and the adjacent 3M parcel to the east; a ball field used by Honeoye Junior Baseball; a wetland area behind Town Hall; and a scenic rest stop on state Route 20A. Open space uses, forest preserves, and indoor and outdoor recreation facilities including waterfront facilities are permitted in the district, encouraging the restoration and preservation of natural open space and uses such as walking trails that are compatible with the natural environment.
The new zoning district — the product of collaboration among local officials, volunteer committee members and planners — dovetails with work to review and revise Richmond’s comprehensive plan. Through that work, the town is building on its commitment to preserving and conserving natural resources with an eye to bringing people in to enjoy the land.
“Studies suggest that people consider access to public land a major consideration in choosing where to live, and the outdoor recreation industry is booming, which brings in tourism dollars,” Barnhoorn said. “People’s love of natural green spaces is one key reason they choose to live, work and visit our town.”
Local park and planning committees are partnering with town officials on an effort to secure grant funding for a study on enhancing Sandy Bottom Park’s trail system, with the goal of better connecting pedestrians in residential and downtown business areas to centrally located recreational assets. Friends of Sandy Bottom Park, a new nonprofit group, was founded to coordinate replanting efforts in the park, where trees damaged by the emerald ash borer are on track to be replaced by other hardy riparian species as part of a multiyear state Department of Environmental Conservation forest management plan.
While trail upgrades and the growth of new foliage will take some time, Barnhoorn said the efforts reflect a commitment to creating and preserving places where the public can enjoy fresh air, exercise and the beauty of nature — work that will draw travelers to the area and enhance the daily quality of life for residents.
“We want to make this a community of choice to live in and to hold land in trust for future generations,” Barnhoorn said. “This is about celebrating the unique qualities of the place we call home.”