From Easton Town engineer Rick Van Emburgh’s vantage point, it’s hard to express how rare it is for a town of Easton’s size to have a $7 million bond fund to work with. While every year, Rick and his colleagues hunt down a variety of funding sources, government or private, to maintain and expand the city’s growing park system, it’s only once in a blue moon that bonding of this size can be used to transform a community’s access to open space.
As the town of Easton comes to the end of this remarkable opportunity, approved in 2020, and with a deadline this October to use up all remaining funds, the Spy thought it might be a good time to chat with Rick and ask him to highlight some of the most notable projects, many of which would not have seen the light of day without this major community investment.
It should be noted that dozens of projects related to the bond fund were allocated to long-overlooked micro-projects, such as complete parking lots and finish trails. But they also included the $1 million work to light existing playing fields and improve storage facilities at the Clark Sports Complex on the north part of town.
But perhaps the most exciting use was covering the planning phase to extend Easton’s Rails to Trails to the east side of town by adding the first-ever pedestrian bridge over Route 50. Such a structure would help facilitate walkers and bikers safely cross the heavily-used Ocean Parkway but would also be an important symbol of connection between Easton’s east and west communities.
Rick also highlights town plans to address a similar challenge in our interview as more and more residents and visitors are eager to cross Route 322 to enjoy the city’s extended Rails to Trails system and Easton Point Park. While the first phase attack on this challenge will be a pedestrian-friendly signal at Glenwood Street at the Bypass, he still needs to rule out another pedestrian bridge in the future to provide safe access.
In addition to the Rails to Trails expansion, Easton has also used bond dollars to improve access to the John F. Ford Park. Working with the Royal Farms store chain, the town was complete with the extension of Calvert Street, which eventually will become a much-needed access point, complete with a small parking lot, for the local community to have a pathway to this popular park finally.
The most transformational for Rick was purchasing the 200-acre lot of Woodland Park off Oxford Road and Route 322. With a vision of a mix of wooded trails and meadows, Woodland would best mirror the unique nature experience found in remarkable but more remote sites such as Adkins Arboretum or Pickering Creek Audubon Center.
This video is approximately seven minutes in length.