One Malta resident isn’t ready to let the idea disappear just yet.
Barbara Conner recently decided to take matters into her own hands after realizing the potential of Malta’s Ecological Park located off Malta Avenue, a 188-acre piece of land owned by the town that hasn’t yet been fully developed.
Years ago, when Dave Meager was Town Supervisor, the Malta Town Board implemented the first of a three-phase plan to create a full park with a large pond for fishing, a beaver dam and a heron rookery. The extension of the trails, boardwalk and interpretive signage system would increase the town’s system of passive recreation opportunities year-round.
Though the ideas for the park are big, phase two of the development was never implemented, leaving the park in a simple state, with a few trails and boardwalks.
“I’m concerned because land is getting developed very rapidly in Malta right now, and if we don’t do something about acquiring and preserving this land, I think we’ll lose our chance,” Conner said.
The original master plan for the park adopted by the town board does not include any plans for a botanical garden, but Conner is hopeful that she can work with the board to amend the plan to add one.
“There are beautifully drawn out plans for some trails—it’s a wonderful place to try and pursue what I’ve had in mind and try to put a master plan in place,” Conner said. “I think the two [plans] could be very complementary and I don’t think what I want to do is going to inhibit what’s already been planned by the board.”
Connor’s “dream” for the park would be “to add some display gardens that have examples of using native plants, continue to identify what’s already growing there and label trees and plants so people who walk on trails can say, ‘Oh, that’s an oak tree or a white pine tree,’ so that’s kind of my dream,” Connor said with a laugh.
Connor said a botanical garden could have many uses and attractions for visitors.
“There are all kinds of things that could be really awesome as a destination for people visiting in the summer,” Connor said. “It’s a lovely place to go and walk and help people learn about basic species and trees, and as a recreational area it’d be great for someone to go fish in the pond or cross-country ski in the winter.”
Although she is early in the planning process, Connor said she is looking for other locals who are interested in helping her plan how to implement phase two of the Ecological Park, with a botanical garden addition in mind.
“What I’d like to do is find some folks who really want to do some hard work and figure out how to fund this—I’m hoping to get some grants or something,” Connor said. “Many public projects are getting handled this way as more and more towns just don’t have the money—a lot of things like this get funded through different kinds of partnerships.”
As for how the project was never finished, Connor said former town supervisor Dave Meager was the major advocate for the full park, but plans diminished after his retirement.
“[The park] was kind of his baby, and when he was no longer on the board, there was no real champion for that property anymore and it kind of became forgotten, I think,” Connor said. “I think it just kind of fell off their radar.”