Friday, June 11, 2010

What's wrong with Spa Parks famous "spouting geyser"? It's been dead as a doornail for weeks.

Private help for popular area in Spa park
Campaign aims to raise money for upgrades to popular area in Spa park

By DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
Click byline for more stories by writer.

First published: Tuesday, May 25, 2010

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Saratoga Spa State Park is raising private donations to restore the public facility's most historic attraction.
With many state parks unable to open due to lack of state money, the Saratoga Capital District Park Commission Monday broke ground on a $250,000 private project to preserve a viewing and resting area near Saratoga Performing Arts Center that features the only spouting springs east of the Rocky Mountains.

Community leaders have already raised half the cost to revitalize Geyser Park, which features a bluestone patio, slate steps and railings along Geyser Creek. The plan also calls for building pavilions at the Orenda and Island Spouter natural springs.

Officials want to repair the area, which they say is crumbling and unsafe, to recognize the park's 100th birthday and the adoption of its first master plan. Raising private dollars for a public entity can be daunting because many believe the operations should be sustained by the state, said Heather Mabee, commission chairwoman.

"But these are difficult times, and, as we all know, the public dollars aren't there," Mabee told about 30 people at the springs. Raising another $125,000 would allow the project to be completed by October, she said.

A fault line that runs from Whitehall to Albany helped create the area's carbonated springs, which are rich in minerals and salt. The water sources drew American Indians to the area hundreds of years ago, and they continue to be sought after for their healthful qualities. State leaders saved the spouts from commercial depletion about a century ago, and their popularity turned them into a symbol of the city.

The area now is near a parking lot and scenic trail often used to get to Saratoga Performing Arts Center. From a path that leads to SPAC, pedestrians can view the Island spouter, which normally spews a narrow plume of spring water about 10 to 15 feet in the air. The spring was not working Monday.

The restoration project includes installing a new bluestone patio area and sidewalks, repairing staircases and railings, building two pavilions, handicapped parking and more, facility manager Kurt Kress said. The area in the 2,200-acre park will be roped off.

Carol Ash, commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, attended Monday's announcement.

Many other improvements in the park's master plan will have to wait until the economy improves, she said. Ash had asked commission leaders to seek private support for the project in light of the state's budget problems, park commission member Thomas Maggs said.

"This is where people can come to escape the lunacy of life," Maggs said. "Yes, we're going through tough times, but we've gone through tough times before."

To make a donation, go to the Saratoga park page at

The Vale of Springs, near the Geyser Park Picnic Area at Saratoga Spa State Park, marks the site marked for an upgrade.

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