Friday, January 11, 2008

$4M in upgrades awaits Legislative approval for Saratoga Spa State Park

Friday, January 11, 2008
Posted on Thu, Jan 10, 2008
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Local state parks targeted for $4M in upgrades
By PAUL POST, The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS — More than $4 million worth of local upgrades are planned if the Legislature approves Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposal to revitalize state parks.
Spitzer, in Wednesday’s State of the State Address, proposed spending $100 million to improve aging infrastructure and facilities along with new development projects.
Officials have already prepared a long list of items for Saratoga Spa State Park such as paving, building repairs, restroom upgrades, dam rehabilitation and restoring Avenue of the Pines.
“None of these projects have been approved,” said Robert D. Kuhn, the Saratoga-Capital Region’s assistant director. “This will be a multi-year effort to bring parks up to where they should be. Until the (state) budget gets adopted we don’t know how that will ultimately come out.
“For many years now the parks have been underfunded.”
Parks Commissioner Carol Ash has directed staff statewide to identify needs within the system, which has been going on for several months.
“That $100 million is not a number that was plucked out of thin air,” Kuhn said. “It’s really to address all of the deferred maintenance that’s occurred over the years. A lot of parks are aging out at the same time.
“This whole initiative is about meeting basic infrastructure needs; to fix what’s broken.”
Spa State Park’s “wish list” includes a $1 million golf course irrigation system upgrade and $750,000 to bring dams at Geyser and Coesa ponds up to code. Three separate projects would cost $500,000 each. They are:
ä Restore rest rooms throughout the park.

ä Pave Avenue of the Pines bike path, plant new trees.
ä Pave Roosevelt Drive and various picnic area parking lots.
“There hasn’t been any paving done here in 10 years,” Kuhn said.
Saratoga Springs is in Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno’s district, the state’s highest-ranking Republican.
“While we will have to wait to see the governor's Executive Budget, Senator Bruno has been a strong supporter of investing in our state parks, especially at Saratoga Spa State Park,” spokesman Scott Reif said.
At Moreau Lake State Park, about $1.5 million would be spent for paving campground drives, creating a new entrance and building a right-hand turn lane for people entering the park off Old Saratoga Road. This would hopefully alleviate congestion when cars stack up, waiting to get in. Electric service would also be upgraded and rest rooms improved, making them handicapped-accessible.
If and when funding becomes available, priority will be given health and safety issues first, Kuhn said.
The parks system also maintains a state boat launch at Saratoga Lake where plans call for installing a $100,000 sewage pump-out station.
Peebles Island State Park is in Waterford at the southern tip of Saratoga County. That facility would get $900,000 worth of improvements.
There are 10 state parks and 10 historic sites in the Saratoga-Capital Region that stretches from southern Greene and Schoharie counties to Crown Point in Essex County. The region reaches west to Fulton and Montgomery counties and east to the Vermont border.
Technically, Grant Cottage in Wilton is a state historic site, but it’s primarily maintained by a non-profit group, Friends of Grant Cottage.
Grafton Lakes in Rensselaer County and Thacher Park in the Helderbergs are among the region’s other large parks. With 25 miles of trails, Grafton Lakes gets considerable winter use and has a WinterFest scheduled for Jan. 26. Plans there call for a $1 million upgrade to dams and spillways along with improvements to day-use picnic grounds and a popular beach area.
Thacher Park’s large pool was demolished last fall. Built in the 1950s, it had leaks that couldn’t be repaired. Separate from Spitzer’s new initiative, $3 million has already been approved for a new pool that should open in 2009 or 2010.
The state wants to incorporate some type of environmental stewardship project at each park, Kuhn said. At Spa State Park, land bordering Route 9 would be enhanced to promote habitat for the endangered Karner blue butterfly. At Moreau Lake, a management plan would be developed to deal with invasive species in the lake and Mud Pond, also within the park’s boundaries.
Environmental groups such as Adirondack Council have hailed Spitzer’s plan as a much-needed proposal.
“The Adirondack Park has about a dozen state-run campgrounds,” spokesman John Sheehan said. “Many state campgrounds and park buildings are causing water pollution in nearby lakes and rivers due to aging and inadequate facilities.”

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