State makes parks renovation plans
Nearly $18M will be spent on projects
BY LEE COLEMAN Gazette Reporter
From swimming pool renovations to new restrooms, the state plans to spend nearly $18 million this year in improvements to state parks in the Saratoga-Capital District.
At Saratoga Spa State Park, for example, $2.5 million has been earmarked for exterior and walkway improvements to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
At the John Boyd Thacher State Park in Albany County, $3 million has been set aside for the redesign and reconstruction of the former pool area, according to a project list released Wednesday by state parks officials.
“We are thrilled,” said Heather Mabee, chairwoman of the Saratoga-Capital District State Park, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commission.
The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation asked the 10 state parks and seven state historic sites in the Saratoga-Capital District to submit requests for much-needed maintenance and renovation projects at their facilities.
Robert Kuhn, acting regional director, said the Saratoga-Capital District parks and historic sites received a substantial share of the $100 million Gov. Eliot Spitzer put in his 2008-09 state budget for the state park system.
“The moment we get the money we can start hiring contractors,” Mabee said at a park commission meeting Wednesday in the Saratoga Spa State Park’s administration building.
Mabee said many of these contractors will be local businesses.
Kurt Kress, capital facilities regional manager for the state parks office, said seven of the proposed projects have already been put out to bid.
“We are assuming the money will come,” Kress said.
Spitzer included the $100 million in his executive state budget, but the money must also be part of the final state budget expected to be approved by the state Legislature by April 1.
“You are going to notice a lot of work going on everywhere,” Kuhn said about the state parks in the region.
Some of the larger projects in the Saratoga-Capital District are:
$1.75 million for new comfort stations at the Moreau Lake State Park.
$3 million to demolish a vacant “Bleachery” building at the Peebles Island State Park near Waterford. $500,000 to build a park police station at Grafton Lakes State Park in Rensselaer County.
$1.5 million to stabilize the historic Erie Canal aqueduct on Schoharie Creek at the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in Schoharie County.
The governor’s $100 million commitment is “the single largest capital investment in the history of the New York State Park System,” according to Eileen Larrabee, a spokeswoman for the state parks office.
She said the spending is part of the governor’s upstate revitalization plan.
The idea is to make long overdue capital improvements to state parks across the state.
“The Spa State Park is a great draw,” Larrabee said Wednesday about tourism in the Saratoga region.
“We need to make sure it’s in great shape,” she said.
The projects on the revitalization list were selected to address “the agency’s highest priority capital needs,” according to a state parks statement. “The list includes a strong emphasis on public health and safety, as well as rehabilitation of deteriorated park and historic site facilities.”