Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spa Park geyer to be improved with private funds. Commissioner Carol Ash and Spa Commission chair, Heather Mabee break ground.

Saratoga Spa State Park improvements on tap
Private money will fund springs rehabilitation plan
Tuesday, May 25, 2010

By Tatiana Zarnowski (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

Heather Mabee, chairwoman of the Saratoga Capital Regional Parks Commission, speaks during Monday’s event as Thomas Maggs, a member of the commission, looks on.
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SARATOGA SPRINGS — It’s time to fix up the crumbling rock walls and soggy paths around Saratoga Spa State Park’s most famous waters, but it will have to be done with private money.

“This area is ugly,” said regional parks director Alane Ball Chinian, gesturing toward a steep asphalt path that leads from a small parking lot to a pavilion overlooking the Island Spouter.

The geyser and surrounding springs — including Orenda and Hayes — lie within the so-called Vale of Springs, the valley where cold mineral waters bubble to the surface.

The state park was created 100 years ago to protect the Vale of Springs.

A 1930s Works Progress Administration effort added pavilions near Orenda and the Island Spouter and rock walls on the sides of paths next to Geyser Brook.

Forty years later, those areas need to be freshened up, officials said Monday when they unveiled a private fundraising effort to fix up the areas around the three springs and add more interpretive signs so people know what they’re looking at.

A path from the Hayes spring along Geyser Brook to the waterfall behind the Saratoga Performing Arts Center will be improved with better drainage and a loop trail so people can walk back a slightly different way.

People who traverse it will be able to climb to a new overlook near the waterfall.

Brush will be cleared and small trees blocking one’s view to the geyser will be taken down, Chinian said.

Officials broke ground on Monday and plan to have a ribbon-cutting when the project is finished in October. Summer visitors may see the area around the springs roped off, Mabee said.

The spring rehabilitation project will be completed with private funds rather than state money, which presents some fundraising challenges, admitted Heather Mabee, chairwoman of the Saratoga Capital Regional Parks Commission.

“People always think that their state dollars should take care of what goes on in their state parks,” she said.

But state parks officials knew they couldn’t ask for funds for improvements in a year when dozens of state parks and historic sites were closed and expected to remain so until the state budget passed.

“With all the budget considerations, we don’t have the money to do anything that’s really important for public health and safety,” Chinian said.

More than a dozen private donors have given or pledged half the money toward the $250,000 project.

NYS Parks Commissioner, Carol Ash and Heather Mabee, Chairperson of Spa Commission announce rehabilitation of geysers with private funding.

People can give to the effort through the state parks’ website, nysparks.com.

Parks officials also formally adopted the state park’s first master plan after two years of work.

The plan provides more habitat for Karner blue butterflies, more recreation area and formalizes an informal dog park; it would also renovate the Lincoln Bathhouse into a visitor center for the park while also leasing out office space to generate revenue.

Some of the projects require significant funds, but they don’t have to be done right away, said parks Commissioner Carol Ash.

“The beauty of a master plan is it lays out a blueprint for when times are good, how you can spend the money in the most efficient way,” she said.

The improvements will benefit people who visit the 2,200-acre state park every year to have fun and seek peace.

“I call this a mental health respite,” said Thomas Maggs, a member of the parks commission.


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