Future of state park to be plotted
Capital projects will be identifi ed
BY LEE COLEMAN Gazette Reporter The Saratoga Spa State Park has been chosen to be the first of the state’s 178 parks to create a new comprehensive master plan. “Where should the park be in five, 10, 20 years out?” asked Robert Kuhn, assistant regional director of the Saratoga-Capital District Region of the state park system. “Do we want camping here?” Kuhn said, giving an example of the kind of thing the master plan will answer. Kuhn said the Spa State Park staff is thrilled to be the first in the state to do a new master plan. “It’s wonderful for us, but a huge challenge,” Kuhn said at a recent meeting of the Saratoga-Capital District Region park commission. The master plan — including detailed environmental and economic studies — will identify future capital investments at the 2,800-acre park needed to rehabilitate and upgrade the park’s many recreational and cultural venues. Many of the Saratoga Spa State Park’s historic buildings were constructed during the Great Depression. Most of them opened in 1935 and are in need of regular repair and renovation. “The master plan is an important document,” said Eileen Larrabee, a spokeswoman for the state Offi ce of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. She said on Monday a comprehensive master plan requires comments and suggestions from the local community on the future development of the park. “Over the past decade very few master plans have been done,” Larrabee said. This is why state parks Commissioner Carol Ash is asking that 50 parks in the state complete a new master plan within the next fi ve years. “Spa State Park is slated to be the first,” Larrabee said. The last master plan for the Spa State Park was done more than a decade ago, she said. Kuhn said Spa State Park is lucky to have Michael Greenslade as its new director. The master plan will be done “in-house” by park staff. Most recently, Greenslade was director of the Moreau Lake State Park. He helped that park finalize a master plan after it acquired 3,200 acres in Saratoga and Warren counties from the Open Space Institute and Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. Greenslade will be in charge of coordinating the new Spa State Park master plan process. Larrabee said the Moreau Lake State Park master plan was one of the few completed in New York state in recent years. “The process requires that we open it up to the public, to the local municipality,” Kuhn said about the master plan. Heather Mabee, president of the Saratoga-Capital District Region’s park commission, said the master plan “will be a living document.” “It will be something anybody can read, it will be user-friendly,” Mabee said. Mabee said the Spa State Park’s master plan should be completed as early as the end of 2008. “It will be a lot of work,” she said at a recent commission meeting. “We will need all the help we can get,” Greenslade replied. Ash said this fall that a major problem facing the state park system is the lack of adequate funding in recent state budgets. “Over the past 15 years, the size of our system expanded from 184 sites — including historic sites and state parks — in 1992 to 213 today, an increase of 29 new facilities,” Ash said in testimony before a fi scal year 2008-09 parks capital funding hearing in Albany. “But over this same period, our capital budget was cut,” she said. “Our actual expenditures in 1992 were $60 million. This year, our capital expenditures from all sources will be $40 million.” “Adjusted for inflation, our capital budget today buys 50 percent less than it did in 1992,” she testifi ed. Ash said there is a backlog of $650 million in “urgent capital needs” in parks across the state. The Saratoga-Capital District Region, which includes the Spa State Park along with nine other state parks and seven historic sites, needs $43 million for “urgent” capital projects, Kuhn said. “We won’t get it in one year,” Kuhn said. He said the money for the region will be phased in during coming budget years. “Everything looks positive to get the funding, starting in next year’s budget,” Kuhn said.
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