Sunday, February 28, 2010

Our Beloved Pool


Please support the "Save the Victoria Pool Society" on-line petition. We need to let our lawmakers see that our community needs a safe, clean place for it's citizens.

victoria pool still in big danger--sign on-line petition now,

Victoria Pool, other sites not beyond danger yet
Sunday, February 28, 2010

By PAUL POST, The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS — State parks thought to be safe from the chopping block might not be protected at all.

Gov. David Paterson recently announced plans to close 41 parks and 14 historic sites statewide to save $6.3 million from a projected $8.2 billion budget gap.

Numerous other facilities, including Victoria Pool at Saratoga Spa State Park, would be kept open by taking $5 million from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. However, state law prohibits the use of EPF money for operations.

“This is a dodge by the governor’s office,” said John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council environmental group.

Under Paterson’s current proposal, nine parks and historic sites in the region would close including Thacher Park and Schuyler Mansion in Albany County, and Bennington Battlefield, Hudson River Islands and Schodack Island state parks in Rensselaer County.

Without EPF money, Victoria pool and five more places would close, too — Peebles Island State Park in Waterford; Cherry Plain and Grafton Lakes state parks and Crailo historic site in Rensselaer County; and Minekill State Park in Schoharie County. Combined, this means 75 percent of all Saratoga-Capital Region facilities would close.

The Legislature could approve use of EPF funds in special circumstances. Last year, for example, it took

$10 million to help balance the state budget. But Sheehan said he doesn’t believe lawmakers will take the political risk of doing that again during an election year.

“The integrity of the EPF is a high priority for many in the Legislature,” said Steve Englebright, D-Long Island, chairman of the Assembly Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development Committee.

The EPF was originally created to pay for land acquisitions, close landfills and build recycling facilities. Later, it was expanded to help pay for parks department capital projects.

“It cannot be used to pay for day-to-day salaries or operating expenses,” Sheehan said.

However, parks spokesperson Eileen Larrabee said there’s no other way to keep many sites open in this crisis situation. “Without it, we would be facing greater cuts,” she said.

Larrabee said only a few of New York’s parks — such as Bethpage on Long Island and Niagara Falls — are self-sufficient. Most lose money, she said.

Fees and admissions only cover 40 percent of the department’s expenses, she said. The rest comes from the state’s general fund — taxpayers.

Money in the EPF, totaling about $212 million, comes from a real estate transfer tax. Each time there’s a real estate transaction, anywhere in the state, a small portion of money goes to the fund.

If the parks department is allowed to use EPF money for operations, environmentalists fear other state agencies will try raiding it, too. Money would no longer be available for the fund’s original purpose.

Englebright said he believes parks can be kept open without tapping into the EPF. One idea is to offer a multi-year Empire State Pass that would bring in extra money for the 2010-11 fiscal year. Also, out-of-state campground users could be charged more than in-state residents.

Englebright said many of New York’s state parks were developed during the Great Depression.

“They didn’t go around closing them,” he said.


© 2010, a Journal Register Property

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

yes, and the Gideon contract includes use of the Victoria Pool(open that is).

Private treatment for the Gideon
Buffalo-based firm plans to spend up to $20M upgrading stately old Spa City hotel

Click byline for more stories by writer.

First published: Tuesday, February 23, 2010

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- It was financed under a previous federal stimulus program. Now, the Gideon Putnam hotel is getting a facelift with private money, up to $20 million of it, as a private management group seeks to enhance its appeal and update it.
Delaware North, the Buffalo-based company managing the property, already has remodeled the lobby, restaurant and tavern areas, as well as adding wireless Internet access throughout.

It has freshened guest rooms with new "soft goods," such items as bedspreads and linens, and is embarking on a plan to remodel all the bathrooms.

"To date, we've spent $4 million," said Tim Smith, general manager of the Gideon Putnam Resort, as it's now known.

A space off the lobby was turned into a gift shop, and an exercise center was also installed on the main floor of the hotel. Power outlets are plentiful, giving business travelers a place to recharge their laptops and smartphones.

But some things haven't changed. A wood fire crackles in a fireplace next to a sitting area in the lobby.

Delaware North, which manages properties ranging from the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif., to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, was brought in two years ago to revitalize the property, according to a spokesman for the property's owner, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

"The goal was to bring an infusion of private-sector dollars into the hotel, along with new vision and new energy," said Dan Keefe, a spokesman for the state agency.

He said over the 20-year contract, Delaware North will spend $19.7 million on capital improvements.

The Gideon Putnam, named for an early Saratoga Springs entrepreneur, shares the Saratoga Spa State Park with golf courses, the National Museum of Dance, the Saratoga Automobile Museum, the Hall of Springs banquet facilities, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and other attractions.

In the summer, the park draws guests in town for the New York City Ballet, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and thoroughbred racing at the Saratoga Race Course.

The rest of the year, it hosts conferences, leisure travelers and special events such as weddings.

Last Friday, the hotel was fully occupied by a wedding party, with the ceremony and reception at the nearby Hall of Springs, operated by Schenectady restaurateur Angelo Mazzone.

Kathlyn Denkenberger, interim president of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, said the Hall of Springs and Gideon Putnam, both members of the bureau, work closely together.

While the Gideon Putnam has had its share of famous guests, it wants the public to know that it is nevertheless "an affordable luxury," in the words of Tom Wysocki, its director of sales and marketing. Packages in the off-season, he said, can start as low as $100 a night.

About 60 percent of the business consists of business travelers attending conferences and meetings, while 40 percent are guests on leisure trips.

The hotel was financed in part with a loan from the Reconstruction Finance Commission, which dated from the Hoover administration and was used by the administration of Franklin Roosevelt to distribute federal relief funds, according to the application nominating the hotel for the National Register of Historic Places.

The Gideon Putnam and other buildings in the park were constructed between 1931 and 1935.

The hotel has joined such properties as the Algonquin, the Mohonk Mountain House, The Sagamore and The Otesaga Resort Hotel & Cooper Inn on the Historic Register.

The renovations will take place in four five-year segments, said Smith, the general manager.

The hotel's facelift comes as construction proceeds on the $4.2 billion GlobalFoundries semiconductor plant a few miles south in Malta.

Already, the hotel has hosted industry events, and the two hotel managers say the expansion of the region's technology sector will provide the historic Gideon Putnam with "great opportunities."

Eric Anderson can be reached at 454-5323 or by e-mail at

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Go to to add your voice to our fight.

There’s no denying that public parks and pools are luxuries, and thus likely targets when money is tight. And there’s no denying that money is tight in New York state.

But come on.

It’s criminal that state parks and pools may close to save a piddling $6.3 million in a budget with an $8.2 billion deficit, while taxpayers continue to support past and present public employees’ pensions and perks and lawmakers waste money on items large and small.

Even in the unlikely event that the governor and Legislature find the fortitude to stand up to union and other special interests and tackle real spending issues, it will take another generation to dig New York out of the hole. New York spends about $134 billion a year.

Pensions and other benefits must be addressed head-on.

The measly money saved by cutting things like well-used parks won’t do anything meaningful in terms of cutting the deficit.

But it’s easier to pick on parks.
The official list from the governor’s office, which was released Friday, spares all the state park facilities in Saratoga County. An earlier version would have closed the Victoria Pool, the fancier of the two pool complexes at the Saratoga Spa State Park. That would have been a shame. The Victoria Pool had more than 16,000 visitors when it was open last summer, from June 27 through Labor Day.

It’s bad enough that last year the family-oriented Peerless Pool was closed on Tuesdays and hours were cut back because of budget constraints. Closing Victoria entirely would have been a needless cutback.

Other parks in the Saratoga-Capital Region were not so lucky. In Rensselaer County, Grafton Lakes State Park is safe for now. But the Schodack Island State Park, the Hudson River Islands State Park and the historic site at the Bennington Battlefield State Park will all close if the governor’s proposal is accepted by the legislators in their version of the state budget.

The last time the Schodack Island State Park was threatened by closure, local people banded together to protect their park. They ultimately received state permission to staff the park as volunteers. Now, it seems, even being willing to volunteer isn’t enough.

Also on the chopping block is the extremely popular and scenic John Boyd Thacher State Park in the rural outreaches of Albany County and the Schuyler Mansion Historic Site. Thacher Park has been a regular destination for young summer campers from the inner cities of the Capital District.

All told, the governor’s plan would close 41 parks and 14 historic sites, reduce services at 23 parks and one historic site, and raise $4 million in increased fees to be determined later. Also, $5 million from the Environmental Protection Fund would be used to finance parks department operations, at whose expense we don’t know.

There are no doubt some parks, historic sites and museums that could, at the very least, reduce hours and staffing to save some money.

But don’t forget that parks spin off economic benefits, like visitors buying gas and food. And then there’s the not-so-old-fashioned idea that a civilized society ought to provide parks so people can enjoy a bit of nature and maybe an affordable place to swim reasonably close to home. We’re supposed to be encouraging kids and adults to get outside.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

you can now sign an on-line petition to save the victoria pool, just copy/paste line below in your browser or go to

Maybe Victoria Pool is Not safe from closure, what does the "fallback list" mean mentioned below, confusion rules.

View bleak for state parks
John Boyd Thacher State Park is on the list of eight Capital Region sites to close as state budget deficit takes toll

By BRIAN NEARING, Staff writer
Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Saturday, February 20, 2010

ALBANY -- Eight state parks and historic sites in the Capital Region, including John Boyd Thacher State Park at the Helderberg Escarpment, would be closed this year to help narrow the cash-strapped state's budget deficit, according to plans released Friday.
Statewide, the plan calls for the closure of 41 parks and 14 historic sites, and service reductions at 23 parks and one historic site. The state system currently encompasses 178 parks and 35 historic sites.

"These actions were not recommended lightly, but they are necessary to address our state's extraordinary fiscal difficulties," said Carol Ash, commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Ash's office came up with the cuts, which are expected to save about $6.3 million, in response to a 22 percent budget cut of more than $64 million to her department in Gov. David Paterson's proposed 2010-2011 budget.

Other sites in the Capital Region appeared on the closure list: the Bennington Battlefield State Park, Schodack Island State Park, and Hudson River Islands State Park, all in Rensselaer County; Schuyler Mansion Historic Site in the city of Albany; Max V. Shaul State Park and Schoharie Crossing Historic Site, both in Schoharie County; and Johnson Hall Historic Site in Fulton County.

"In an environment when we have to cut funding to schools, hospitals, nursing homes and social services, no area of state spending, including parks and historic sites, could be exempt from reduction," said Paterson.

Dan Keefe, a spokesman for the parks agency, could not say how the proposed closures would be carried out. He said the savings reflect seasonal employee and operating costs. The closings in the Capital Region were expected to save about $767,500, according to the office.

The parks' plan also counts on $4 million in new park and historic site fees still to be identified, and use of $5 million in new revenue redirected from the Environmental Protection Fund, which already faces a 35 percent cut under Paterson's budget.

Use of EPF funds -- which normally pays for land purchases, farmland protection, recycling, water quality and other conservation programs -- will require approval by the state Legislature. If lawmakers reject that action, Ash's office has prepared a list of another 34 parks that would be closed.

Capital Region parks on that fallback list include Grafton Lakes State Park, Cherry Plain State Park, and Fort Crailo State Historic Site, all in Rensselaer County; Minekill State Park in Schoharie County; and Peebles Island State Park in Saratoga County. Also, the Victoria Pool in Saratoga Spa State Park would be closed.

The list of park closures was first reported Sunday by Times Union columnist Fred LeBrun.

In Saratoga Springs, word that the Victoria Pool might not open this summer drew angry city residents to Tuesday's City Council meeting.

"We are completely horrified," said Louise Goldstein, founder of the Save the Victoria Pool Society, which fought to get the state to invest $1.5 million in repairs to the pool in 2003.

When word of potential park closures leaked out, the New Scotland Town Board adopted a resolution urging that Thacher Park remain open.

Numerous bridal parties have had their pictures taken at Thacher Park's dramatic overlook, said New Scotland Town Supervisor Tom Dolin, a former town justice.

"I've officiated at a number of weddings up there," he said. "It's a very popular wedding site for people from all over the region, not just New Scotland. And it's a year-round resource, and a very inexpensive place to take a family for a picnic."

Three Facebook pages have already started to support the park, said John Kilroy, chairman of Friends of Thacher Park. "What we want to do is mount a grassroots campaign, and urge people to contact their legislators and the governor's office," he said. A lobbying day on behalf of the parks is set for March 3 at the Capitol, he added.

Opponents said the closure plan would save relatively little cash and punish residents during a time of economic difficulty. Last season, the park system had about 56 million visitors, an increase of almost 2 million that set an all-time record. Bookings at cabins and campsites also set records.

"News of the closings will devastate many communities, as their citizens rely on parks for affordable, close-to-home recreation and their businesses rely on parks to bring in revenue," said Robin Dropkin, executive director of Parks & Trails New York, a statewide advocacy organization.

"The minuscule savings from closing 57 parks -- four-thousandths of 1 percent of the total state budget -- is laughable and pales in comparison to the hardship parks closings will cause New Yorkers, both in spirit and in pocket," she said.

The state parks agency will continue to make capital investments planned for this year, said office spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee. This includes $3 million for work at the bleach works in Peebles Island State Park in Waterford and $600,000 at Thompson Lake State Park.

Waterford Mayor Bert Mahoney was relieved to learn that Peebles Island was not on Friday's state closure list. Mahoney said closing the park would be a disaster. "People are concerned. They don't want to see anything happen to restrict our access," he said.

Several GOP Rensselaer County lawmakers also came out against the closing. "Closing these state parks will only punish residents who are already paying outrageous state taxes and can probably expect to pay even more because of the chaos in state government. Worst of all is that these closures will not reduce the state's budget gap. This is an unfair and wrong-headed move by the state," said Legislator Lester Goodermote.

"Some of these closures make no sense, especially at the wilder state parks that cost little to staff and maintain," said Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club.

"How are they going to keep people out of Thacher Park, which has a public highway running through it?'' Woodworth went on. "Unless they pay for security staff to keep people out, they will park along the side of the road and walk in. The situation would also leave the park and its facilities vulnerable to abuse and vandalism. Where are the cost savings in that?"

Brian Nearing can be reached at 454-5094 or at Staff reporters Dennis Yusko and Kenneth C. Crowe II contributed to this story.

Popular destinations at risk

Capital Region parks and historic sites slated to close and the annual amount to be saved:

John Boyd Thacher State Park, New Scotland, $255,000

Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, Albany, $166,000

Schodack Island State Park, Schodack, $97,000

Bennington Battlefield Historic Site, Grafton, $20,000

Hudson River Islands State Park, Rensselaer County, $15,000

Johnson Hall Historic Site, Johnstown, $46,500

Schoharie Crossing Historic Site, Fort Hunter, $110,000

Max V. Shaul State Park, Fultonham, $18,000

Olana State Historic Site, in Hudson would be closed two days a week, saving $35,000.

Source: NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

The full list

For the complete statewide list on proposed state park closings, go to

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Victoria Pool dodges budget cuts; other sites not so lucky
Published: Saturday, February 20, 2010

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More Photos
Click thumbnails to enlarge

The Schuyler Mansion in Albany remains in danger of being closed in order to save the state money. (TOM KILLIPS file photo/For The Saratogian)

Schodack Island State Park remains in danger of being closed in order to save the state money. (TOM KILLIPS file photo/For The Saratogian)

By PAUL POST, The Saratogian

Click to enlarge

4-year-old Josh Szwarcberg of Ballston Lake leaps into Victoria Pool at Saratoga Spa State Park in 2007. The pool has escaped a round of cuts announced Friday by Gov. David Paterson. (RICK GARGIULO file photo/The Saratogian)

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Victoria Pool at Saratoga Spa State Park has escaped the chopping block, but popular destinations such as Thacher park in the Helderbergs would close under a round of cuts announced Friday by Gov. David A. Paterson.

No Saratoga County facilities would be affected, but three Rensselaer County state parks are targeted — Bennington Battlefield, Hudson River Islands and Schodack Island.

They’re among 41 parks and 14 historic sites statewide that would close this year as part of Paterson’s plan to save $6.3 million from a projected $8.2 billion budget gap. Services would be reduced at another 23 parks and one historic site.

Another Rensselear County park — Grafton Lakes — that was thought to face closing was not on Paterson’s list.

“I’m grateful about Grafton, but it’s not a good way to do business,” said state Sen. Roy J. McDonald, R-Saratoga, who represents Saratoga and Rensselaer counties. “With the loss of population, upstate is becoming more of a minority. I want to make sure we’re not being taken advantage of.”

In New York City, only one park would close, but another’s pool wouldn’t open and its seniors and cultural programs would be eliminated.

Other Saratoga-Capital Region facilities facing closing are Schuyler Mansion in Albany, John Brown Farm Historic Site in Lake Placid, Johnson Hall Historic Site in Fulton County and Max V. Shaul State Park and Schoharie Crossing Historic Site in Schoharie County. There are 12 parks and eight historic sites in the region. The nine that face closing represent almost half that total.

“It will be devastating to the communities they’re in,” said Heather Mabee of Greenfield, chair of the Saratoga-Capital Region Parks Commission. “Local economies will be hard hit. When people visit parks and historic sites, they also shop and eat at restaurants. Think of all the summer jobs that will be lost for high school and college kids. Thacher Park alone has 40 seasonal employees.”

Statewide, parks usage increased by 2 million visits last year from 54 million to 56 million. Thacher Park hosts numerous day camps for the Capital District’s inner-city youth.

“I’m disappointed that Albany doesn’t realize how important parks are,” Mabee said. “People need them to get away from the stress of daily life, and we’re supposed to be encouraging kids to get outside and be more active instead of sitting in front of computers. Without parks, where do they go?”

She said permanent jobs such as administrators will be saved.

Assistant Regional Commissioner Robert Kuhn said, “We currently have three vacant park manager positions in our region. We have no park manager at Grafton Lakes or Minekill state parks and no assistant manager at Saratoga Spa State Park. Presumably, managers from closed facilities will be relocated to other facilities where we have vacancies.”

In terms of numbers, the Central Region was hit hardest where 12 facilities are targeted, followed by 11 each in the Taconic Region and Long Island. All proposals require approval by the state Legislature.

“New York faces an historic fiscal crisis of unprecedented magnitude,” Paterson said. “The unfortunate reality of closing an $8.2 billion deficit is that there is less money available for many worthy services and programs.”

His plan also calls for $4 million worth of park and historic site fee increases.

Parks Commissioner Carol Ash said, “These actions were not recommended lightly, but they are necessary to address our state’s extraordinary fiscal difficulties.”

At Jones Beach on Long Island, plans call for closing a swimming pool and eliminating July 4 fireworks. At Niagara Falls, interpretive programs would be reduced.

Even Donald J. Trump State Park in Westchester County would close (he donated 436 acres for it) and golf courses at James Baird and Mills Norrie parks in Dutchess County would have shortened seasons. Olana State Historic Site near Hudson would close two days per week.

For a complete list of closings click on the link:

The following are comments from the readers. In no way do they represent the view of

loispoor20 wrote on Feb 20, 2010 5:27 AM:

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Friday, February 19, 2010

FLASH!! Victoria Pool Not on Parks closing list!!

save the victoria pool society taped a radio show just before the list of park closing was released. It will be aired on STAR 101.3fm and 1160am at 8am on Sunday, february 21,2010. The show is the Capital Connection with former Saratoga Springs Mayor, Mike O'Connell.

Even if Victoria Pool is NOT listed to close, we have to keep the pressure on. We will have an on-line petition very shortly and many off-line petitions are being started by pool fans already all over the state.

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Capitol Confidential
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By: Jimmy Vielkind, Casey Seiler, Jim Odato, Rick Karlin

Paterson, Ash: Sorry, folks — the park’s closed
February 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm by Casey Seiler
As expected, the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation released its recommended list of closures and service reductions “in order to achieve its 2010-11 agency savings target and help address the State’s historic fiscal difficulties.”

As Fred LeBrun first reported on Sunday, the Capital Region takes a particularly heavy hit, including the full closure of John Boyd Thacher State Park in the Helderbergs and Schuyler Mansion Historic Site in Albany.

The list, which you’ll find in full after the jump, came with a statement from the governor:

“New York faces an historic fiscal crisis of unprecedented magnitude. It has demanded many difficult but necessary decisions to help ensure the fiscal integrity of our State. The unfortunate reality of closing an $8.2 billion deficit is that there is less money available for many worthy services and programs. In an environment when we have to cut funding to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and social services, no area of State spending, including parks and historic sites, could be exempt from reductions. We cannot mortgage our State’s financial future through further gimmicks or avoidance behavior. Spending cuts, however difficult, are needed in order to put New York on the road to fiscal recovery. Going forward through the budget process, I look forward to a productive dialogue with the Legislature on parks and historic sites, as well as other issues.”

OPRHP Commissioner Carol Ash issued the following statement:

“The 2010-11 Executive Budget included reductions to every area of State spending. As such, the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation has today put forward proposed closures and service reductions to meet its agency savings target. These actions were not recommended lightly, but they are necessary to address our State’s extraordinary fiscal difficulties.”

Here’s the full release from OPRHP:

A fact sheet on the proposed closures and service reductions is included below:

The Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) today put forward a list of closures and service reductions in order to achieve its proposed 2010-11 agency savings target and help address the State’s historic fiscal difficulties. As part of a comprehensive plan to close an $8.2 billion deficit, the 2010-11 Executive Budget included necessary cost reductions to each executive State agency, as well as cuts to education, health care, social services, and every other area of State spending.

OPRHP’s plan includes the closure of 41 parks and 14 historic sites, and service reductions at 23 parks and 1 historic site.

The plan also assumes $4 million in park and historic site fee increases that will be identified at a later date, and the use of $5 million in funds from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to finance OPRHP operations. These two actions were part of the 21-day amendments to the Executive Budget and are intended to reduce the number of parks and historic sites subject to closures and service reductions.

Specific recommended closures and service reductions are detailed below:

Long Island

Brookhaven State Park Suffolk Close Park
Bethpage State Park Suffolk Eliminate Winter Sports;
Reduce picnic area and polo field
Caleb Smith State Park Preserve Suffolk Close Park
Cold Spring Harbor State Park Suffolk Close Park
Connetquot River State Park Suffolk Close Weekdays
Heckscher State Park Suffolk Close Swimming Pool
Jones Beach State Park Nassau Close West Swimming Pool;
Eliminate July 4th fireworks
Montauk Downs State Park Suffolk Close Swimming Pool
Nissequogue River State Park Suffolk Close Park
Orient Beach State Park Suffolk Close Park
Trail View State Park Suffolk Close Park

New York City Region

Bayswater Point State Park Queens Close Park
Riverbank State Park New York Reduce Operating Hours;
Close Outdoor Swimming Pool;
Eliminate Seniors Classes; and
Community/Cultural Events

Palisades Region

Fort Montgomery Historic Site Orange Close Historic Site
Harriman SP– Anthony Wayne Orange Close Park Area
Harriman SP – Group Camps Orange Reduce Maintenance
High Tor State Park Rockland Close Pool
Knox Headquarters Historic Site Orange Close Historic Site
New Windsor Cantonment SHS Orange Close Historic Site
Schunnemunk State Park Orange Close Park
Stony Point State Historic Site Orange Close Historic Site
Tallman Mountain State Park Rockland Close Pool

Taconic Region

Donald J. Trump State Park Westchester Close Park
FDR (Roosevelt) State Park Westchester Reduce Swimming Pool Season
Hudson Highlands State Park Putnam Close Arden Point Area
James Baird State Park Dutchess Reduce Golf Course Season
Mills Norrie State Park Dutchess Reduce Golf Course Season
Olana State Historic Site Columbia Close 2 Days per Week
Philipse Manor Hall Historic Site Westchester Close Historic Site
Rockefeller State Park Preserve Westchester Eliminate Interpretive Programs
Taconic Outdoor Education Center Putnam Eliminate Interpretive Programs
Taconic State Park – Rudd Pond Dutchess Close Rudd Pond Area
Wonder Lake State Park Putnam Close Park

Saratoga-Capital Region

Bennington Battlefield State Park Rensselaer Close Historic Site
Hudson River Islands State Park Rensselaer Close Park
John Boyd Thacher State Park Albany Close Park
John Brown Farm Historic Site Essex Close Historic Site
Johnson Hall State Historic Site Fulton Close Historic Site
Max V. Shaul State Park Schoharie Close Park
Schodack Island State Park Rensselaer Close Park
Schoharie Crossing Historic Site Schoharie Close Historic Site
Schuyler Mansion Historic Site Albany Close Historic Site

Central Region

Chittenango Falls State Park Madison Close Park
Clark Reservation State Park Onondaga Close Park
Fort Ontario State Historic Site Oswego Close Historic Site
Helen McNitt State Park Madison Close Park
Herkimer Home Historic Site Herkimer Close Historic Site
Hunts Pond State Park Chenango Close Park
Oquaga Creek State Park Broome Close Park
Old Erie Canal State Park Onondaga Close Park
Oriskany Battlefield/Steuben SHS Oneida Close Historic Site
Pixley Falls State Park Oneida Close Park
Robert Riddell State Park Delaware Close Park
Selkirk Shores State Park Oswego Close Public Swimming Beach

Finger Lakes Region

Beechwood State Park Wayne Close Park
Bonavista State Park Seneca Close Park
Chimney Bluffs State Park Wayne Close Park
Newtown Battlefield State Park Chemung Close Park
Springbrook Greens State Park Cayuga Close Park
Two Rivers State Park Tioga Close Park
Buttermilk Falls State Park Tompkins Close Public Swimming Area
Seneca Lake State Park Seneca Close Lake Swimming Beach
Stony Brook State Park Steuben Close Public Swimming Area

Thousand Islands Region

Canoe Island State Park Jefferson Close Park
Cedar Island State Park Jefferson Close Park
Eel Weir State Park St. Lawrence Close Park
Keewaydin State Park Jefferson Close Park
Macomb Reservation State Park Clinton Close Park
Mary Island State Park Jefferson Close Park
Point Au Roche State Park Clinton Close Park
Sackets Harbor State Historic Site Jefferson Close Historic Site

Genesee Region

Hamlin Beach State Park Monroe Close Swimming Beach 3 Days per Week
Oak Orchard State Marine Park Orleans Close Park
Regionwide Multiple Eliminate Camper Recreation Program

Niagara Region

Joseph Davis State Park Niagara Close Park
Knox Farm State Park Erie Close Park
Niagara Falls State Park Niagara Reduce Interpretive Programs
Wilson-Tuscarora State Park Niagara Close Park
Woodlawn Beach State Park Erie Close Park

Allegany Region

Allegany State Park Cattaraugus Close Quaker Area Swim Beach;
Close Quaker Cabins Area on December 1st;
Eliminate Winter Trails Maintenance;
Reduce Recreation Programs
Long Point State Park Chautauqua Close Park

Thursday, February 18, 2010

pressure your elected officials to keep Victoria Pool open early and often.

Society pleads to save Victoria Pool
Thursday, February 18, 2010

By PATRICK H. DONGES, The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS — In the face of cuts that could close many local state parks, city residents are taking a stand.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the Save the Victoria Pool Society pleaded with city and county officials to do whatever they could to keep the pool open this summer.

Gov. Paterson’s recently announced executive budget proposal would cut $20 million from the parks. Rumored cuts include Peebles Island, Thacher Park and the Saratoga Spa State Park pool.

"How many more shoes are going to drop?" asked Saratoga Springs resident Peter Tulin Tuesday night.

"First VLTs, then the pool; what’s next?"

The society came with photos of swimmers on the pool’s opening day in 1935. Tulin illustrated the importance of the pool by noting the two years during World War II when the track was closed but the pool remained open.

Society co-founder Louise J. Goldstein first learned the pool might be closed in a news article last Sunday. Her concern increased this week when Spa State Park officials told her next season’s schedule would not be available until March.

"It means the most to the citizens, economy and, most importantly, the history of Saratoga Springs," Goldstein said .

The society urged the City Council to bring forward a resolution stating they would do whatever it takes to keep the pool open.

Mayor Scott Johnson gave no indication of a pending resolution, but he praised the tenacity of the society since its inception in 2003.

"(The Victoria Pool) is a part of the city’s history and we will work to guarantee its continued use," he said Wednesday.

In 2004, the organization helped secure a $646,801 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to upgrade the pool. It had been closed periodically for maintenance and sanitation problems.

In 2004 and 2005 the pool underwent a $1.5 million rehabilitation project including masonry restoration, a new filtration system, new pipes and stainless steel gutters.

County Supervisor Matthew Veitch plans to bring the pool to the attention of state legislators when he lobbies for the county’s legislative agenda Feb. 23, even though he primarily used the Peerless Pool in his youth. He admitted that a resolution brought before the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors could not stop the state from closing the pool.

"There needs to be a critical mass," He said. "It could spur the public to write letters and make their case."

Veitch said he couldn’t believe the state was losing revenue by keeping the pool open.

"I just don’t see the point of it," he said, noting the recent renovations.

The Save the Victoria Pool Society can be found on the Web at


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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Office of Parks to public: just keep twisting in the wind while we twiddle our thumbs.

State officials urge patience on park closures
Story Discussion By DREW KERR, | Posted: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 5:01 pm | (1) Comments

Font Size: Default font size Larger font size SARATOGA SPRINGS -- State officials are trying to quell concerns that the Victoria Pool at Saratoga Spa State Park will be closed this summer because of budget cuts.

Rumors about the pool's closure emerged over the weekend, but officials with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said this week that no decisions about the facility have been made.

"It would be misleading to the public to say there is a plan to close (the Victoria Pool)," said Dan Keefe, a department spokesman.

Parks officials have acknowledged that some state parks, park facilities and historic sites in New York are likely to be closed this year as the department deals with funding cuts.

But a review of exactly what will be shuttered this year is ongoing, Keefe said, and is unlikely to be finished for weeks.

The savings are being sought in light of Gov. David Paterson's budget proposal, which cuts state spending on parks by around 16 percent compared with the current year.

If enacted, the parks department would receive around $155 million in the 2010-11 state budget, a decline of $29 million from the amount afforded in the previous spending plan.

Louise Goldstein, a Saratoga Springs resident and founder of the Save the Victoria Pool Society, said she has been scrambling this week to learn more about the state's plans but has been unsuccessful.

Despite receiving no official indication that the pool will be closed, group members planned to urge the Saratoga Springs City Council to pass a resolution during the council's Tuesday meeting in support of keeping the pool open.

Goldstein's group may also make a visit to Albany to express concerns, Goldstein said.

"We know how to fight, and we are going to fight," she said.

Goldstein said the pool should be saved because it is one of the few affordable venues for area residents to swim during the summer; the only other public pool in Saratoga Springs is the Peerless Pool, which is also located in Saratoga Spa State Park.

The Victoria Pool facility, which opened in 1934 as the country's first heated pool, has a certain ambiance that is enjoyed by visitors from around the world, Goldstein said.

"It is much, much more than a swimming pool - it's the most beautiful swimming pool in all of America," she said. "It's got a certain magic that makes it not just a Saratoga but a national treasure."

People from around the country have contacted her this week to express their concerns that the pool would be shuttered, Goldstein said.

She said she was particularly miffed at the suggestion the pool could be closed in light of the state's spending $1.5 million on improvements between 2003 and 2005 and because attendance has blossomed since then.

Attendance figures could not be obtained as of press time on Tuesday.

Posted in Local on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 5:01 pm | Tags: Victoria Pool, Saratoga Spa State Park, Peerless Pool, State Budget,

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

save the victoria pool society reacts to devasting news of possible pool closure, daily gazette, 2/16/10.

Group fears Saratoga park’s pool may be closed
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
By Tatiana Zarnowski (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

Text Size: A | A | A
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Fears of the Victoria Pool’s possible closure in Saratoga Spa State Park this summer have angered people who champion the historic facility.

Although state park officials deny the pool is specifically slated for closure, members of the vocal Save the Victoria Pool Society believe it is.

Co-founder Louise Goldstein said the society plans to protest if the state decides to close the pool, perhaps by having a rally.

“We’re not going to be quiet,” she said.

But agency officials wouldn’t confirm that the Victorian Pool will close.

“We haven’t finalized plans for specific parks,” said Dan Keefe, spokesman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Keefe said those decisions are expected to be made soon.

“We’re looking at doing park-by-park review.”

It’s no secret that the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is going to have a tough year.

“It’s anticipated that there will be closures. I think it’s been pretty well publicized,” said Alane Ball Chinian, regional director for the Saratoga-Capital District Region of the parks office.

Statewide, the agency has cut 256 employees since the 2008-09 fiscal year, including 67 workers who would get the ax under the proposed 2010-11 budget.

Next fiscal year’s budget would reduce the agency’s operating budget by $29 million to $155 million.

“Simply stated, we will no longer be able to continue to operate all of the facilities and programs we currently administer,” Commissioner Carol Ash told the joint fiscal committees of the state Legislature last month about the 2010-11 budget plan.

A statewide advocacy organization is urging the state to fund the parks so they won’t close.

“If the governor was serious about New York’s economic development, he would restore at least $20 million to State Parks’ operating funds and prevent any parks from closing,” said Robin Dropkin, executive director of Parks & Trails New York.

Dropkin said a proposal by Gov. David A. Paterson to raise park fees this year and generate $4 million more in revenue would still mean closing some parks.

Locally, closing the Victoria Pool would eliminate the revenue stream from pool patrons who pay $8 for adults and $4 for children to enter.

Goldstein contends the pool is a moneymaker for the state because it fills up fast in the morning on hot days and people wait outside for a chance to sunbathe or swim there.

“It’s much more than a swimming pool. It’s a place that people come from all over the world.”

With its arched architecture, the Victoria Pool is a favorite hangout for New York City Ballet dancers, local residents and tourists.

She questioned the criteria the state is using to decide which state parks stay open and which will be closed.

Goldstein noted that the pool has never spent a season closed, even during World War II when Saratoga Race Course was closed.

Goldstein’s “Save the Victoria Pool” group formed in 2003 when needed capital projects threatened to close the pool. Public funds were secured to fix up the aging pool and since then Goldstein and 16 other board members have protested the late June opening and early closing of the pool.

Park officials have cited lack of lifeguard help, low attendance before schools let out and cooler weather as why they wait until late June to open.

“We thought it was saved, but the reason we didn’t change our name was we were very afraid of what the future would hold. And unfortunately we were right,” Goldstein said.


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Monday, February 15, 2010

St. Valentine's Day Massacre puts Victoria Pool on hit list.

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State parks make hit lists

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First published: Sunday, February 14, 2010

Two lists of possible state park and historic site closures made necessary by Gov. David Paterson's proposed 2010-11 state budget finally have been prepared by senior staff at the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the governor's office.

What the lists tell us is painful and sure to enrage the public.

Say goodbye to the venerable John Boyd Thacher State Park in the Helderbergs, for example, as bizarre as that sounds. At this point, it will take extraordinary measures to save it. Once closed, who knows when it reopens?

The reason there are two lists relates to the 21-day amendments the governor made to his original budget proposal.

In response to a growing din of concern over park closures, the governor now proposes moving $5 million from the capital budget line in the Environmental Protection Fund to an operating funds line as a way to save some parks.

The problem with that maneuver is that it requires approval by the Legislature, which has been loath to endorse similar offloads in the past. It would place a double burden on the already savaged EPF to "rescue" parks by sacrificing some other worthy environmental need.

There are 11 park regions in the state. The following is the list, as of Friday afternoon, of parks and historic sites that will be closed or curtailed in the Saratoga-Capital Region if the Legislature does not approve the $5 million transfer, or restore funding from another source. They are:

Schuyler Mansion and Peebles Island State Park, in addition to Thacher in Albany County.

Cherry Plain, Grafton Lakes, Schodack Island, Hudson River Islands and Bennington Battlefield state parks and the Fort Crailo historic site, all in Rensselaer County.

Max V. Shaul and Minekill state parks and the Schoharie Crossing historic site, in Schoharie County.

Crown Point and John Brown Farm historic sites in Essex County.

Johnson Hall in Fulton County.

Victoria Pool would be closed at Saratoga Spa State Park, but the rest of the park would be unaffected.

If Legislature goes along with the governor, or plugs in more money, the following would be saved:

Cherry Plain, Grafton Lakes, Minekill, Peebles Island, Schuyler Mansion, Fort Crailo and the Victoria Pool.

So, the difference between the two lists is instructive as to what these great minds are thinking. Why restore Cherry Plain and Grafton, but not Thacher, for example? The expression "arbitrary and capricious" comes to mind, not to mention insensitive and ill-considered.

What is utterly dismaying is that these discussions are going on behind very closed doors with no public input. At what point do the decision makers plan to drop all this on us? When it's too late for the enormous park user-base to protest? Calls to the governor's office on Friday on the subject were not returned.

Those of us from this region are aware that the affected parks serve a range of clients, but with varying emphasis. There are class issues, for example. Grafton, Cherry Plain and Thacher serve minority communities more than does Saratoga Spa, not that I wish ill to any of them.

Sure, there's plenty of wilderness out in Schoharie County that can serve as an alternative to official state parks. But it is especially in impoverished areas such as Schoharie that state parks are needed engines of economic development. Parks attract tourists and that's found money. Why in the world are we killing off our flock of golden geese then?

What is dramatically missing in this process is any sense of criteria for closures. We deserve to know why and on what basis. And we deserve a thoughtful and complete analysis of what each closure really means in terms of actual savings, and true costs whether they're open or not.

Take Thacher Park. How do you "close" it? A major highway runs right through it. There's easy access on all sides. Those escarpment cliffs are dangerous; hardly a year goes by without serious injury there. Which means a squad of park police will have to be stationed there, at what cost, patrolling the area year-round to protect the state's liability interest and safeguard the public.

But what park police? Manny Vilar, a veteran park cop, is the president of the union that represents the senior officer corps at parks. He points out that repeated budget cuts and a pathetic pay scale have created a ludicrous situation. In 2007, the last year there was a park police academy for new recruits, 113 new cops were hired at a cost of $6 million. But from 2004 to 2007, 118 park police left for better paying police jobs from the village level on up to State Police. So, Parks paid $6 million for a net loss of five officers, because the agency doesn't have the funds to remain competitive. As a direct consequence, a skeleton crew of 263 officers and supervisors is responsible for safeguarding 55 million visitors a year at more than 100 parks and historic sites across the state.

So, who's going to protect and preserve Thacher Park until we can reopen it? As I said, this not a pretty picture, no matter how you focus it.

Reach LeBrun at 454-5453 or at

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

we need to rally around our nys parks and urge elected/appointed officials to preserve our precious park so long neglected.

State parks face cutbacks this summer
By Richard E. Baldwin
News Niagara Reporter
Updated: February 11, 2010, 7:48 am / 46 comments
Published: February 11, 2010, 2:52 am
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NIAGARA FALLS — Some of New York State's parks and historic sites will remain closed this summer, others will be open fewer hours, some will have reduced services, and some will charge higher fees, all because of the state's precarious financial situation.

"There is no way for us to get around park closings," State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash said in an interview Wednesday in the Western Regional Parks Office in Niagara Falls State Park.

Ash said it was too early in the budget-making process to even guess at which parks or historic sites would remain closed. She added, however, that service reductions made last year would remain in effect — including the closing of swimming beaches at Lake Erie State Park in Brocton and Woodlawn Beach State Park in the Town of Hamburg.

"We also are looking at raising some fees, particularly at our Long Island ocean beaches, but probably not in Western New York," Ash said. Fees at state golf courses and rental fees for some park cottages also are under consideration, the commissioner said.

"These are imperfect solutions, but we want to make a 'soft landing' as much as possible," she said.

Her department hopes to keep open some parks and recreation facilities in or near each county, Ash said, so nobody in New York State would have to travel too far to reach a state site.

Although nothing has been decided for sure, some services could be reduced, Ash said. As an example, she suggested that some programs at Artpark in Lewiston could be scaled back. She stressed that all of the considerations are tentative and that they may be revised several times before being finally adopted in the state budget that is supposed to be enacted by April 1.

The state's budget for parks and recreation has been reduced by up to 40 percent from the last few years, and budget planners have asked for an additional reduction of $20 million this year, Ash said.

She refused to criticize Gov. David A. Paterson's demand for budget cuts, noting that all state departments are "in the same boat." Paterson has predicted a serious budget shortfall because of stagnant state revenues and increasing costs.

Members of Ash's staff said some savings could be gained by opening some of the smaller parks later in the year than their normal opening dates in April or May. That could become self-defeating, however, because fewer visitors would mean less income at a time when about 40 percent of the department's operating budget comes from user fees.

The staff members said the state's parks and historic sites had about 56 million visitors per year, and that visitation last year had increased by about 2 million. The use of state campsites also has increased, they said, possibly because more residents are vacationing closer to home and using relatively inexpensive state facilities in a time of recession.

On the brighter side, Ash announced that Paterson has proposed a $20 million statewide capital improvement budget for the Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation.

The $20 million includes:

• $1.5 million to design repairs or replacement of the failing Goat Island bridges built just above the American Falls in 1901, which are closed to vehicle traffic. Vehicles currently use a newer bridge, just upstream from the original spans. There was no estimate of the actual cost of fixing or replacing the old bridges, although it would be much more than the amount allocated for design work. Also, there was no timetable for the work, which could be several years away. Only pedestrians now use the failing bridges.

• $1.1 million to improve the sewage system at Fort Niagara State Park near Youngstown to meet state sanitary standards.

• $1 million to repair and resurface aging park roadways that have exceeded their useful life in Allegany State Park in Cattaraugus County.

• $550,000 to replace the deteriorated restroom and shower building that serves the "D" cabin area, a popular camping area at Letchworth State Park in Wyoming County.

The commissioner distributed a summary report showing that state operating expenditures, capital investments and expenditures by visitors to New York State parks contributed $569 million to the economy of the Niagara Frontier. The study was released last year by the Political Economy Research Institute of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

nys parks in big trouble, be very afraid.

State Parks agency's dilemma is a symbol

Click byline for more stories by writer.

First published: Sunday, February 7, 2010

So which one will it be? Do we close Grafton State Park in Rensselaer County or Thacher up along Albany County's Helderberg escarpment?
Forget how popular both are, or how Grafton Lake in that park serves as the swimming hole for Troy's minority community, or how Thacher provides the great overlook of our region, cherished for generations as a place to show visiting relatives. Regardless, choices have to be made, because the governor has spoken. Spoken without analyzing the implications, but spoken nonetheless. He wants cuts, deep cuts. OK, we get it. We need cuts, but what do they mean to us?

Among the many irritating aspects of Gov. Paterson's behavior in crafting his proposed $134 billion state budget for 2010-11 is his lack of dialogue with we the people over why he is making certain budget cuts -- the rationale and the admitted consequences to state services and programs.

It is also apparent that he hasn't even involved his own state agencies in much of it. The latest round of cuts was dropped like a bomb on agencies about the time the proposed budget was made public. Out of the blue, agencies are left trying to divine how to meet an artibrary 11.5 percent further reduction across the board. Apparently not, as you might suspect, because of deteriorating revenues and our continued horrible economy, but rather out of pure political motivation by the governor. Just so he can announce at the end of the next fiscal year a $500 million or more surplus for some sort of gimmicky give-back to the taxpayers. Which returns us to Thacher versus Grafton and the infuriating dilemma facing the Office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

As has been widely noted already, Parks, along with the Department of Environmental Conservation, has taken an outsized hit in the proposed budget. For state parks, this is in addition to previous cuts. The total is a staggering 40 percent of their operating budget over the last three years. Already Parks has eliminated 1,100 permanent and seasonal workers, and instituted restrictions at more than 100 state parks and historic sites. There is no wiggle room left.

The governor has been told point blank that what he now proposes means half the state parks and historic places evenly spread over the 11 regions of the state will have to be closed. Yet I have been assured by those who should know that there is no list of closures. In other words, the governor is willing to make the cuts without any sense of how that will translate down here in the trenches.

It's going to translate badly. Now, there are certainly a number of options available, but we're not hearing anything like this from the governor. Options such as raising fees at state parks, perhaps dramatically. Right now, it costs a vehicle $7 to get into Grafton, and $6 into Thacher. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails are $10 a day at both venues. Raising fees certainly would not be popular, but if it would keep them open, it's worth looking at perhaps in combination with other measures.

My old friend Al Caccese is the executive director of Audubon New York. But from 1975 to 2003, he was on the state parks agency executive staff serving as counsel, executive deputy and even acting commissioner through three administration, both Republican and Democratic. He's mortified at what's happening at his old agency.

He says that in addition to this administration not revealing what parks and historic sites are in jeopardy, which the public has the right to know, there doesn't seem to be any thought given to the impact of those closures in terms of lost revenues and tourist dollars.

The park system generates $2 billion a year in economic activity, much of it in rural areas desperate for it. Yet strangling up-front operating expenses means many will have to be shut down. How dumb a way to save money is that?

DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis, when he recently testified before the Legislature on the proposed budget, made a similar point about facilities controlled by his agency. That they would make a profit if allowed to exist. We haven't heard yet how many DEC-run campgrounds and parks, vital to tourism around the state, will get nailed in Paterson's thoughtless budgeting process. But with the DEC actually looking at rationing gas for its police force and limiting telephone use, we should brace ourselves for the worst.

Caccese, who made a career of getting by with very little at Parks, says the governor could rescue his old agency and the DEC by perhaps funneling part of the proposed obesity tax to their operating budgets. After all, if the primary aim of that tax is a healthier New York, that's what parks and campgrounds provide. Caccese also proposes a tax on non-agricultural lawn care products to fund parks. Not a bad thought.

Gov. Paterson last week pronounced that he was politically a hardened warrior. I think he's confusing battered for hardened. The truth is it doesn't take any courage to announce all manner of draconian cuts to a budget that affects us all. The part that takes backbone is in facing the electorate with the specifics of what those cuts mean. Is it Grafton or Thacher?

Until the governor tells us, he's just dodging.

Contact Fred LeBrun at 454-5453 or by e-mail at

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Friday, February 05, 2010

The Victoria Pool is a money maker for NYS Parks and should open Memorial Day in these rough times.

SARATOGA SPRINGS - It's going to be another difficult year for state parks.

Gov. David Paterson's proposed state budget calls for $29 million in spending cuts at New York's 35 historic sites and 135 state parks, including Moreau Lake State Park and Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs.

The cuts mark a 16 percent reduction from the amount provided to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in 2009, leaving the agency with about $155 million to spend this year.

Although nothing is final, parks officials say the budget-trimming will likely translate into smaller staffs, scattered park closings and less investment in infrastructure needs.

A list of which parks will be closed is still being drawn up, but parks officials say the cuts are deep enough to raise concerns that operations at Moreau Lake State Park and Saratoga Spa State Park would be diminished to the point that neither could operate safely and would have to be shut down.

"This is not something we want to do, but, purely and simply, if the money is not there to run the park properly, we won't do it," said Heather Mabee, a governor-appointed parks advocate who represents the Saratoga-Capital District region on the State Council of Parks.

Mabee and other parks advocates visited the Capitol Tuesday to make the case that parks are not just venues for recreation but also economic engines that draw visitors from outside the area.

Many lawmakers did not understand how deeply the state parks system has been cut in recent years, she said, noting the budget for the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has been slashed nearly 40 percent since 2007.

Although Mabee said there is sympathy for the parks system's plight, there is also a feeling that all state spending is being slashed, and the parks department is no exception.

"We got some very positive responses, but we were also told that nobody's safe from being on the chopping block," said Mabee, who lives in Saratoga Springs. "Nobody said no to us. They all understand, but they also have their own priorities."

One lawmaker with whom Mabee and others spoke was state Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga.

Reached Wednesday, McDonald made no promises but said cutting funding for state parks is a "dangerous" proposition that could cost the state on the revenue side.

"I don't look at parks as entertainment; I look at them as economic development," said McDonald, who described himself as a park user who regularly kayaks on Moreau Lake.

McDonald also said failure to invest could lead to irreparable deterioration.

"We've got a tremendous amount of resources in these places, and you don't want to let these investments go to waste because they may never come back," he said.

Unless funding is restored, the spending cuts will put into question capital projects planned for Moreau Lake State Park and Saratoga Spa State Park, officials said.

Parks staff have designs to add 80 campground sites at Moreau Lake and recently finished a master plan that included a host of changes to Saratoga Spa State Park, including a fenced-in dog park, a disc golf course and improved parking lots.

Those projects will be put on hold until more capital funds are available, officials said.

Paterson's budget includes $32 million for capital projects statewide this year, but parks officials estimate there is a backlog of needs totaling more than $650 million at parks across New York.

Those needs include storm water management and sewer projects, building repairs and environmental management.

Unless the budget proposal is altered, moves made to save $5 million in operating costs in 2009 will also be continued this season, officials said.

Last year, parks staff closed Peerless Pool at Spa State Park on Tuesdays and trimmed the hours it and other swimming locations were open from nine hours a day to eight.

Further reductions in hours could be on the horizon, but no specifics have been released.

Prices for camping at Moreau, as at all other state campgrounds, jumped from $13 to $15 a night last year, while admission at the Victoria Pool in Saratoga rose from $3 to $4 for children and from $6 to $8 for adults.

The rates are expected to remain in place this summer but will not increase.

Park entrance fees, now set at $6, were the only fees not raised last year. They are not expected to rise this year.

Another likely byproduct of the cuts is that this will be the third successive year in which no park police officers will be trained or hired.

That will leave the force with 266 officers - 25 percent fewer than were employed in July 2008, and just half the number employed in 2003.

Dan Keefe, a spokesman for the state parks office, said the cuts could lead to the cancellation of some larger events held at state parks. He could not say, however, if they would have any impact on events at Saratoga Spa State Park, home of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

The cuts come as a growing number of residents flock to state parks as a low-cost, close-to-home entertainment venue.

Estimated attendance at state parks across New York hit nearly 56 million last year, a jump of nearly 2 million people from 2008, according to the parks office.

The number of visitors to Moreau Lake State Park and Saratoga Spa State Park contributed to the spike in activity.

Parks statistics show an estimated 1.48 million people visited Saratoga Spa State Park in 2009, while another 396,000 visited Moreau Lake, increases of 2 and 8 percent, respectively.

Peter Iskenderian, the manager at Moreau Lake, said reservations already made for next summer at the park's campgrounds and cabins lead him to believe attendance could increase for 2010, too, assuming the season isn't trimmed.

"I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that the other parks were cut last year, and that people came here instead," he said. "Plus, we've also got a beautiful park that people just want to enjoy."

Several other swimming outlets in the region, including the beaches at Cherry Plain State Park, Thompson's Lake State Park and Grafton Lakes State Park, were closed for two days each week last year as a result of budget cuts.

The beach at Moreau Lake, however, remained open seven days a week.

Friends groups - volunteers who step in to help parks staff make up funding shortfalls - are likely to play an increased role as the budget becomes more lean, Iskenderian and others said.

At Moreau, for example, private donations recently helped parks staff buy a trail groomer that will be used to smooth loops through the park for cross-county skiers and snowshoers.

James Kettlewell, a Saratoga Springs resident who heads the friends group at Saratoga Spa State Park, said volunteers will look to do more to help out there this year, too.

But volunteers can only do so much, he said, noting the extensive maintenance efforts involved with preserving the architecture in the park.

Many of the buildings, including the mineral water bathhouses, date back to the 1930s, when President Franklin Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration.

"Spa State Park has a much different character from many of the other state parks," Kettlewell said. "Really, it is home to some of the most important architecture in the state."

People who have come to enjoy the park's ambiance, as well as the recreation opportunities it affords, should realize that those assets also come at a cost, he said.

"Government-supported facilities require a certain amount of money that necessarily must come from the public," he said. "People love the park, but they don't want to hear the word taxes. We have to get the public to make the association and put the two together."

Posted in Local, Saratoga on Thursday, February 4, 2010 5:30 pm Updated: 5:45 pm. | Tags:

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