The sun was glistening off the Mohawk River in Amsterdam Monday as a cool breeze blew. For Luke and Nicole Sheldon, it seemed a perfect day for a trip to Riverlink Park with their two children, Liliana, 3, Kelly, 1, along with their beagle-mixed breed Jewel.The young couple walked about a mile from Orange Street in the city to the upper level of the Riverfront Center parking lot only to find the gate to the pedestrian walkway chained and locked .
“We’re disappointed. We were hoping it was open so we could sit near the water,” Luke Sheldon said.
The park , situated between locks 10 and 11 of the historic Erie Canal, features a swing set for children, access for boaters and a link between the canal and the city.
“We had a long walk to get here, that’s the sad thing,” Sheldon said.
City officials contacted Monday indicated it was unclear exactly who is supposed to open the gate.
Nicole Sheldon said she stopped by the park with her friend a few weeks ago and they were unable to get in. She said the entrance gate to the pedestrian walkway was open but access at the end of the walkway was locked up.
Luke Sheldon said it was his understanding Riverlink Park is a public park paid for with public money and speculated perhaps the park is only open for special occasions.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Luke Sheldon said.
The Sheldons aren’t the only people who were unable to use the park in past weeks. Two weeks ago, a couple walking away from the gate declined to comment to The Daily Gazette but indicated they wanted to go into the park but couldn’t because it was locked .
In September, Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation board of directors president Paul Gavry said there were no reasons he knew of why the park would be locked .
Gavry and other members of the Waterfront Foundation could not be reached for comment Monday.
City officials on Monday indicated there aren’t necessarily any set hours for the public park to be open.
Several people are believed to have keys to the gates, but none was directly responsible for opening up the park .
Amsterdam 1st Ward Alderman Joseph M. Isabel on Monday said the pedestrian walkway and Riverlink Park are owned by the city and managed by the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation.
The walkway is accessed from the parking lots at the Riverfront Center through an agreement with the city, but the Riverfront Center management is not responsible for opening the gates, Isabel said.
Officials at the Riverfront Center and the Amsterdam Police Department have a key, Isabel said, but only for emergency access.
Isabel said in July and August, staff from Pasqualli’s Restaurant, who operate an eatery at the park , open up the gates.
A woman who answered the phone at Pasqualli’s Monday was unsure whether the parkside eatery was still serving.
“Personally, I feel they have the right to enjoy the park . What needs to be done is the powers that be have to sit down and establish hours for the park ,” Isabel said.
Amsterdam 2nd Ward Alderman Anthony “Babe” Pallotta said he thinks details of the park ‘s operation should be reviewed. “We should sit down and look at this and see what the heck’s going on here,” Pallotta said.
The park served as host to hundreds of people during the annual CanalFest celebration this summer in addition to an expanding slate of live music events that are drawing people to the city and region, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Auspelmyer said Monday.
“It’s a very nice park , with the CanalFest and summer concert series, people are starting to utilize it more,” Auspelmyer said.
Auspelmyer said the chamber has held light discussions with officials from the Riverfront Foundation hoping to organize signs or some means of letting boaters know what attractions are available in the city if they want to stop by.
The park was built primarily with about $3.5 million in state grants, officials said in the past.
Amsterdam Mayor Joseph Emanuele III on Monday said he was not aware the gates to the park were locked .
“Certainly, we want people to enjoy it in the daytime,” Emanuele said.
Emanuele said he heard that a boater on the canal stopped in the city and went to return to his boat but couldn’t because the gates were locked . The boater had to stay in a local hotel, Emanuele said.
“We should keep that park open, at least as long as the canal is open,” Emanuele said.