Scenic Hudson's Long Dock Park is a resilient living work of art and a vibrant community asset for the Hudson River Valley. A 23-acre peninsula on the east side of the Hudson at Beacon, New York, the site includes the Peter J. Sharp Park and the Klara Sauer Hudson River Trail. Two decades in the making, beginning in 1997, it took a decade to plan and remediate, and, by its completion in early 2017, it will have taken just as long to build and recover.
In 1997, nonprofit Scenic Hudson, the largest environmental and land preservation group focused on the Hudson River Valley, started assembling the different ownership parcels of the Long Dock site. From 1999 to 2003, they engaged the Beacon community through a series of community meetings and workshops to articulate its vision for its waterfront and cleanup of the site began. From 2003 to 2007, the design team developed the architectural and site program for the project, restoration measures, and its physical expression with the client.
Working with the City and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the project completed the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) process, filing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and received approval of the final EIS ensuring that there was significant environmental, social, or economic value. The NYSDEC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) were also directly involved in oversight of the brownfield remediation and work within the Hudson River and site wetlands. With the SEQR process complete and approval of a mitigation plan from the USACE, the team worked with the City of Beacon to complete the site plan application process for construction. Our mandate was clear from the start—build resilience, but realize it incrementally.
The project's first phase, opened in 2009, included additional remediation and removal of contaminated soils, removal of invasive species, stabilization of the south shoreline, a test plot for different materials, a wetland boardwalk and interior pathways, installation of native plantings, and site-specific artwork. By 2014, the landscape's multiple character zones were complete: the established meadow, the connective network of trails and boardwalks, the working site infrastructure of wetlands with swales and seeps, the dynamic intertidal zone, and earthen buttresses. A new pavilion for kayak storage and rentals and an arts and environmental education center in the historic Red Barn were significant additions for the program and community engagement of the park (refer to Figure 1). Over the past summer of 2016, portions of the site originally designed as a LEED platinum eco-hotel and conference center are now being remediated and reconceived as a new civic plaza, amphitheater, overlook west deck, boardwalk at Quiet Harbor, and a shade structure with an area for food trucks.
Long Dock Park will continue to adjust and adapt to changing circumstances of ecology, climate change, flooding and sea level rise, and culture. Our original goals of renewing and revealing the historic waterfront, increasing public access to the river, restoring degraded environmental conditions, and demonstrating exemplary, environmentally sensitive development—these are complete. And the park was one of the first pilot projects for the Sustainable-SITES certification program and subsequently received SITES's highest rating of a SITES project at the time.
Even as we considered program, spatial organization, and aesthetics, our work also sought to create in Long Dock a functional and sustainable ecosystem. The park's design needed to initiate natural processes for the degraded post-industrial brownfield to function and sustain ecosystem services that had not existed before. The design of healthy soils, the integration of hydrology, and the establishment of native plant communities form the true story of the site's transformation from postindustrial ruin into a significant waterfront park.