by Beth Young
When Good Ground Park in Hampton Bays opens to the public on June 10, it will be part of a coordinated effort to turn downtown Hampton Bays into a pedestrian-friendly cultural and recreational district.
The five-acre park, part of 36 acres purchased for preservation by Southampton Town in 2001, includes a natural amphitheater augmented with seating and electric power for performances, a children’s playground, a vast lawn where parents can relax as their children burn off steam, and a walking path to Main Street.
The town is currently in the process of purchasing property from the Hampton Bays Fire District to build a wider walking path connecting to Main Street across from the fire department, where the path will fan out to 70 feet wide, with benches and landscaping to provide an inviting entry to the park.
Southampton Town Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone, who has been involved for years with the planning process for the property, said part of the goal is to open up the back part of many long, skinny business zoned parcels adjacent to the park, which terminate at Main Street, to pedestrian-friendly businesses.
The park will also be one of the stops on a new Hampton Bays trolley service that starts June 17.
“People like to go to one place and get in and out of their car and do everything they need to do,” said Mr. Zappone on a walk through the park Memorial Day Weekend, adding that in a walking village like Sag Harbor, “you can spend four hours and not have to get back in your car.”
“All of those amenities are here, but what Hampton Bays lacked was a cultural and recreational hub,” he said.
To that end, the town is working to develop a form-based code for downtown Hampton Bays, giving potential developers tools to build new projects in keeping with design elements agreed on by the community.
Mr. Zappone pointed out a mother and child who were playing with a rubber ball along the walking path.
“We want to create an atmosphere that’s family-centric,” he said. “A mom with a little kid throwing a ball around — we want to replicate that 10 million times.”
Opening day events at Good Ground Park begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 10, with the Star Spangled Banner and show tunes from the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center’s Teen Repertory Company, followed by children’s musician Darlene Graham at 11 a.m. and face painting from noon to 2 p.m.
Darren Ottati will lead an evening concert of Broadway show tunes opening night from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
The park will play host to musical performances through the summer, with a summer youth concert on July 21 at 6:30 p.m., music by Molly Brown and Randy Jackson on July 27 beginning at 6:30 p.m., disco with France Joli on Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. and music by the Stanton Anderson Band and The Lone Sharks on Aug. 24 beginning at 6 p.m.
The park will also play host to three Sunday evening concerts at 5 p.m. Certain Moves performs on July 9, followed by the Nancy Atlas Project on July 20 and Mambo Loco on Aug. 20.
The Hampton Bays Public Library will present films on two Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.: “Independence Day” on July 13 and “The Princess Bride” on Aug. 10.
Mr. Zappone said the plan for the fall season is “to complement, not compete” with fall events like the San Gennoro street fair, with pumpkin carvings, fall decorations and holiday lightings in December.
Mr. Zappone said the town hopes to host an eight-week series of Shakespeare in the Park-style vignettes in the amphitheater in the summer of 2018.
“We’ve had a lot of community support for the entertainment,” he said. “The Chamber of Commerce and Southampton Town Police Superior Officers Association have sponsored concerts. We want to make Hampton Bays a place where people who are coming out from the city can stop for two hours, have a nice dinner, let the kids out of the car to stretch and wait for the traffic to die down.”