Thursday, December 31, 2009

Once again Saratoga Spa State park officials treat the taxpayers with contempt.

Just like cutting out the month of June for swimming at the Victoria and Peerless Pools and restricting the dog walkers, now it is the skiers being evicted from the park. What is next? Only golfers and butterflys will be welcome at OUR Spa State Park. The public pays the salaries at the NYS Parks but it is operated like a private club.

Ski rules prompt festival’s exodus
Thursday, December 31, 2009
By Lee Coleman (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

Photographer: Bruce Squiers

Cross-country ski trails along the golf course at Saratoga Spa State Park are restricted this year to preserve the fairways.Text Size: A | A | A
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga Sport and Social Club will not hold its winter festival at Saratoga Spa State Park this winter because of new restrictions placed on the cross-country skiing trails in the park.

“I am deeply distressed over the decision to fence in the entire fairways [of the golf course] and make them unavailable to cross-country skiers and snowshoe users,” said Robert Lippman, a local lawyer and president of the five-year-old sport and social club.

“We are not going to hold it [the festival] at the park, and we may not hold it at all,” Lippman said.

He said he continues to receive angry letters and e-mails from some of the 500 members of the sport and social club complaining about the fenced-in cross-country ski trails at the park.

But an official with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation contacted Wednesday said there may be room for compromise and holds out hope that the event could go on.

Alane Ball Chinian, regional director for the parks office’s Saratoga-Capital District Region, said she talked to Lippman about his concerns on Wednesday.

“We are willing to work with the sport and social club,” Chinian said.

Chinian said the state parks office is committed to encouraging winter sports such as cross-country skiing in its parks. She said an example of this is an alliance the state park has formed with the new Saratoga Springs High School Nordic ski team.

“I offered to meet with Bob [Lippman] next week,” Chinian said. Among the topics of discussion would be moving some of the fencing along the ski trails.

In past years, the ski trails went out over the fairways of the park’s 18-hole championship golf course. This winter, however, park officials have placed green fencing along the ski trails, keeping skiers off the fairways.

Park manager Michael Greenslade said this decision was made to protect the fairways from winter damage.

“You feel boxed in,” Lippman said about the new ski trail system. “The feeling of freedom is all gone; it’s quite a shame.”

The sport and social club, which also offers its members outings to the Adirondacks and other locations throughout the year, has held a winter festival at the state park for the past two years, generally in late February or early March.

“I have great affection for the park,” Lippman said. He added that he believes that the park officials also care about the park but have overreacted with the ski trail issue.

He said the restrictions placed on where ski trails can go have resulted in rutted trails “in terrible shape due to overuse that comes from crowding of all skiers and snowshoe/hikers into a narrow channel.”

Lippman maintains that the golf course damage, which is shown in photos posted on signs telling skiers about the new trail system, is generally in low-lying areas that could be individually fenced off.

“In the peak of winter season, when the snow is several inches thick and frozen as hard as concrete, there is simply no argument that skiers are damaging the fairways,” Lippman says in a letter to Thomas Lyons, the resource management director for the state parks office.

Park officials note that the whole southern end of the state park is open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing with no restrictions.

“While I have been told that the southern end of the park is not fenced, I could not find these areas and they are, at best, several kilometers from the warming hut,” Lippman said.

“Fencing off the entire golf course is a vast overreaction to the problem and sends a message that the park’s priorities are to protect the interests of a few elite golfers at the expense of the public at large,” Lippman says in his letter to Lyons.

Lippman is urging park officials to compromise and reduce some of the fencing so that ski trails can again be located on the golf course fairways. The greens on the golf course have always been off limits to skiing and snowshoeing.

Lippman had usually worked with park maintenance personnel in the days before the club’s winter festival so that cross-country skiing courses for young people and adults could be created for the event. He said these race locations have been lost because of the new fencing erected around the golf course.


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