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New Running Track, Fitness Equipment for Prospect Park on Budget Wish List

PARK SLOPE — Prospect Park joggers could soon have something to skip about — a brand new running lane on the park's main drive.

The new running surface is one of several dream projects that could become a reality through City Councilman Brad Lander's participatory budgeting program, which lets locals decide how to spend about $1 million from Lander's discretionary budget on neighborhood improvements.

Residents brainstormed project ideas at a series of public meetings last fall. Committees then weeded through the proposals and eliminated ones that weren't feasible or were too expensive — there's a $500,00 limit for each project.

In April, the public will vote on their favorites, and the top vote getters will be funded. Last year seven projects were funded, including a bathroom renovation at P.S. 124.

Prospect Park will have three projects on the ballot, said Alix Fellman, a volunteer on the committee that evaluated more than 100 parks-related participatory budgeting proposals.

One project would add more benches throughout the park for an estimated cost of about $80,000. Another would install fitness equipment such as sit-up benches and pull-up stations near Vanderbilt Playground. The estimated price tag for that would be $60,000.

The third idea is to install a new running lane on the park's 3.35-mile loop drive, a popular destination for joggers, cyclists and strollers.

Last summer the park created designated lanes for cyclists and pedestrians to help park users share the road. The project proposed for participatory budgeting would take that concept one step further and create a lane with a different surface especially for runners.

Right now the running lane on the park drive slopes slightly, but the new lane would be completely flat, which would put less stress on runners' joints, Fellman said. The lane would be made of a permeable material, which would absorb water and make it easier to control stormwater run-off in the park.

"This project would flatten [the running lane] while at the same time improving drainage and helping stormwater management, and providing a running surface that's similar to a track, which most runners would tell is better for their knees," said Eric Landau, director of government affairs at the Prospect Park Alliance.

If it wins funding, the new running lane would be installed on a pilot basis on a short section of the drive, probably about one-eighth to one-fourth of a mile. The cost would be about $250,000. If the new lane proved successful, the park would consider installing the runner's lane around the entire loop drive, Landau said.

Learn more about the projects proposed for funding in City Councilman Brad Lander's district at the Participatory Budgeting Expo, March 21, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Park Slope Public Library, 431 Sixth Ave. Voting will happen at various locations from April 2 through April 7. Check Lander's website for details.