Sunday, November 16, 2008

Spa Park capital improvements continue despite economy

Spa park capital improvements start
Continued master plan work uncertain
Sunday, November 16, 2008
By Lee Coleman (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

Photographer: Marc Schultz

Saratoga Spa State Park is going through renovations around the park. New sidewalk pads are being paved and completed seen here in front of the Gideon Putnam Hotel.Text Size: A | A | A
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Despite financial cutbacks at parks across the state this fall, work on a master plan for Saratoga Spa State Park’s next 20 years continues.

“What’s nice about the master plan is that it really gives us an opportunity to think ahead,” said Alane Ball Chinian, the new regional director of the Saratoga-Capital District Region of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Such planning includes possible new capital projects and improvements at the park. But it also includes fiscal and energy sustainability programs that will serve the 2,200-acre state park well in the coming years, Chinian said.

Saratoga Spa State Park is the first in the state park system to start a new master plan. The decision was made in 2007, before the state and national financial meltdown began.

This past June, state park officials held and informational hearing at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in the park to start the master plan work. More than 200 people attended this meeting and made dozens of suggestions.

Everything from a fenced-in dog park to better grooming of the park’s cross country ski trails was discussed.

Chinian said work on the master plan has been ongoing since that time. It is coordinated by the park system’s planning office in Albany.

master plan work

Park Manager Michael Greenslade said local park staff and state planners meet every other week to discuss master plan work.

He also said that park renovation and maintenance projects approved and funded in the 2008-09 state budget are being completed, including the renovation of six “comfort stations” in the Spa State Park’s picnic areas.

Chinian said three special studies are being conducted as part of the master plan work.

One of these studies is an in-depth, extensive scientific study of the popular State Seal water that flows under a relatively new pavilion across Avenue of Pines from the Saratoga Automobile Museum.

“We know it’s safe,” Chinian said about this sparkling clear water that has little or no mineral taste. “But I encouraged a more in depth study of the water. It looks good, but not all the results are in.”

This water is being studied because it is used heavily by the greater Saratoga Springs community.

“It is truly a 24-7 operation,” Chinian said about the popularity of the State Seal water.

People bring large jugs and other containers at all time of the day and night so they can bring home the clear, fresh-tasting spring water.

The testing is for hundreds of minerals that could possibly be in the water.

A new traffic study is also being conducted, including the Avenue of Pines that runs through the park between Route 9 and Route 50.

“We are not sure of the use [of the avenue] for non-park purposes,” Chinian said. Traffic counts are currently being taken on Avenue of Pines to determine its use and which vehicles are park patrons or employees and which cars and trucks are just cutting through the park.

The third master plan study is on possibilities for new and better signs at the park entrances and inside the park.

weighing in

A group called the Saratoga Spa Park Partners Forum has been created. This group includes representatives of all the amenities offered in the park: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the golf courses, the auto museum, the dance museum, Gideon Putnam Hotel and Conference Center, the Hall of Springs and the privately-operated restaurant that serves the park’s championship golf course.

“In these troubled times we meet and discuss ways in which we can support each other,” Chinian said.

She said the forum members want signs to indicate that the park can be a one-stop destination for tourists and other park patrons.

She said those various entities located within the park want to be able to market themselves more effectively with a better system of signs that are informative yet tasteful and in keeping with the park’s overall style.

At present there is a temporary banner that hangs below the main park sign on Route 9. Organizations such as SPAC or the Automobile Museum or the Lake George Opera Festival are all eager to hang their banner in this location to advertise their events and programs.

plan timetable

The first draft of the completed master plan is on schedule to be released in June, Chinian said.

As far as the coming winter is concerned at Spa State Park, park manager Greenslade said the basic park programs such as cross country skiing and ice skating will be offered.

The Spa State Park will not be closed during the winter months, for financial reasons, like some of the smaller parks in the state park system will be.

“We plan to do all the things we have done in the past,” Greenslade said. He said there have been some park staffing cuts, especially seasonal workers.

Chinian said the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has made two rounds of budget cuts this summer and fall. She said Gov. David Paterson has not called for additional budget cuts this fiscal year.

“What’s been done is done,” she said.

She said Schodack Island State Park in Rensselaer County has been closed for the winter and the state boat launch on Saratoga Lake and many state campgrounds were closed earlier than usual this year.

Yet despite all the cutbacks, work continues on some projects at the Saratoga Spa State Park and the Moreau Lake State Park, according to Kurt Kress, engineer for the Saratoga-Capital District Region.

Kress said that an additional $75 million in renovation and maintenance money for state parks was included in the 2008-09 state budget. Some $12 million of this was earmarked for the Saratoga-Capital Region parks.

He said engineering plans were prepared and contracts issued before the onset of the current national and state financial meltdown. That may offer some assurance that those projects will be completed.

“The contracts were let before the financial crisis,” Kress aid.

These projects include the six comfort stations in the Spa State Park’s picnic areas and another seven comfort station restorations at the Moreau Lake State Park.

Another Spa State Park project is the improvements to the bike and pedestrian paths. The biking and walking path along Avenue of Pines was paved this summer and fall. Other trail improvement work will be done in the spring, Kress said.

Kress said the bathrooms at the Moreau Lake State Park haven’t been renovated since they were opened in the 1960s.

He said contractors for the state will work through the winter to upgrade these bathrooms so they are ready for the 2009 camping and park season.

Kress said the parks region had to make a 10 percent reduction in funding this fall like every other state agency because of the current recession.

“What next year’s budget will hold, nobody knows,” Kress said about the state’s 2009-2010 budget.


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Anonymous said...

Thank God, our park deserves only the best.

Anonymous said...

Yes they do and to think this blog had them on the brink of destruction.

Anonymous said...

You must be joking! without this blog our park would certainly be ignored as it was in the past.

Anonymous said...

If that's what you need to tell yourself in order to get through the day then have at it. Those of us who live in reality know the facts.