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County presents ideas for Highland Park

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[UPDATED AND REVISED 10/27/16] When Monroe County knocked down the old Cornell Cooperative Extension building off of Highland Avenue in the city, it gained about 2.5 acres of land for Highland Park. The Extension moved its office to space at Seneca Park at the start of 2015, and its property reverted to county ownership.

Some of the former Extension site is paved, so it'll probably be used for parking. But a chunk of the site could also become a new natural play area, similar to the one at Abraham Lincoln Park near Irondequoit Bay. It would use materials such as logs and rocks from Highland or other county parks to create features like balance beams, ladder crawls, and climbing areas.

The projects are among several tentative Highland Park proposals that the county and its consultant, Barton and Loguidice, presented publicly last week. The county is preparing a master plan for the two sections of Highland Park that are south of Highland Avenue, which it hopes to complete by the end of the year.

One of the sections includes the former Extension site as well as the Lilac Festival site; the other is bisected by South Goodman Street and bordered by Elmwood and Highland avenues.

Potential projects also include a rehab of the footpaths in a woodlot behind the Extension site, new signs, and additional plantings.

"We're letting the lilac collection jump Highland Avenue," said Tom Robinson, a landscape architect and environmental planner for Barton and Loguidice. County parks director Larry Staub added that the county's horticulturist, Mark Quinn, has been adding lilacs to the southern half of the park for several years.

The county may put a lodge off of South Avenue, right at the park's border with the Al Sigl campus. Lodges have become a standard addition to county parks in recent years.

Staub said the location provides good views of the park and abuts an existing parking lot. But the project would be five or six years off, since the department doesn't currently have money for it, he said.

The proposals call for the county to leave the South Goodman Street land alone and let it continue as "unprogrammed" space, Robinson said. The county may consider planting some additional trees in that area.

The residents who attended last week's meeting were open to the proposals, for the most part. Tom Kicior, who also represents the Highland Park Conservancy, stressed that the county should consider pedestrian safety improvements, especially on Highland. South Goodman Street between Elmwood and Highland has no sidewalks, which is a problem, too, he said.

Kicior also encouraged the county to consider trimming the proposed size of the Extension site parking area. The concept calls for around 85 spots, with six set aside as handicap-accessible, but the county isn't set on those numbers, Robinson said.

An earlier version of this article omitted identifying information for Larry Staub, the county's parks director.

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