Friday, April 13, 2012

let the good times roll at saratoga spa state park and hope for an earlier victoria pool opening.

State parks get a boost
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SCOTT DONNELLY -- | Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2012 11:07 pm | (0) Comments
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Jason McKibben -
A duck takes flight at Moreau Lake State Park Wednesday April 11, 2012. Wildlife seems to outnumber people at the park right now, but camping reservations are up over last year, and officials are pleased with an allocation of cash from the state budget following two years of austerity. The park opens for camping May 4. (Jason McKibben -



If you go

What: The Friends of Saratoga Spa State Park will celebrate I Love My Park Day with a day of spring cleaning.

When: 9 a.m. to noon, May 5

Where: Saratoga Spa State Park, in the SPAC parking lot and at the dog park

Details: The spring cleaning that starts in the SPAC parking lot is open to residents of all ages. The dog park effort, which happens at the same time, is open for adults 18 and older. Participants are asked to bring gardening gloves, garden rakes, water, snacks, lunch, bug repellent and sunscreen.

To register: Visit or call 434-1583 to register a group of more than 10 volunteers.

What about Moreau Lake State Park?: The I Love My Park Day program isn’t happening there this year, though Robin Dropkin, executive director of Parks and Trails New York, said it may next year. To contact the Friends of Moreau Lake State Park, visit its Facebook page, or email

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State parks in the region are looking forward to a strong season, thanks to a fresh infusion of cash and a warm-weather boost.

Camping reservations at Moreau Lake State Park are up 3 to 5 percent, according to Bob Kuhn, assistant regional director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation’s Saratoga/Capital District region.

“We feel pretty good about the season,” Kuhn said. “We’ve had a mild winter and a mild spring, and I think that may be one of the reasons we’re ahead of last year. People are already thinking about the summer season because it’s already nice.”

It’s a similar story at the rest of the state’s parks, where camping reservations are up more than 3,000 stays, or 5 percent, from the same time last year, Kuhn said.

At the Moreau park last year, attendance fell by about 1 percent from the year before, though Kuhn attributed most of that decrease to Hurricane Irene, which raked the East Coast over Labor Day weekend.

Campers and visitors to the park will also see some improvements under way this year, thanks to a major funding boost from the state’s New York Works program. The $6.8 million package is being used to fund infrastructure improvements across all regions of the state parks system.

At Moreau Lake, more than $1.27 million will be used to repave the beach parking lot and all the camping loop roads, said Kurt Kress, capital facilities manager for the Saratoga/Capital District region. That work is expected to start in June, but it will be done in such a way as to minimize the impact on park visitors and campers, Kress said.

The money will also be used to demolish the last of the park’s 1960s-era bathrooms. In 2009, all but one of the park’s old comfort stations were replaced; the bathroom in Loop A was not done, due to financing, Kuhn said. That work will happen after the coming camping season, he said.

Also new for Moreau Lake State Park this year is a new lakefront cabin, which was rehabilitated from an old pumping station as part of a project that began in 2010.

“This is the first year that’s available for reservation, and that’s right on the lake,” Kress said, adding the cabin is already booked for much of the coming season.

It’s that kind of demand that has the state planning to add more cabins in the future.

“We don’t have any immediate plans to build cabins this year, but certainly, that’s on our radar screen,” Kuhn said. “It’s something that’s called for in the master plan for the park, and Moreau books up virtually every weekend, so we know that there’s demand.”

Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs will also get some infrastructure work, as $1.5 million will be spent from the New York Works program to resurface the Geyser Loop Road and the Columbia parking area.

There are also improvements being made now to the park’s Route 50 trail.

Kress said the bike and pedestrian trail will eventually connect with the Spa City’s Railroad Run Trail and will provide a bike/pedestrian route to the YMCA on the city’s west side.

The Saratoga Spa State Park will also get a new playground, and some aged natural gas lines will be replaced, Kress said.

The New York Works funding is over and above the normal capital budget each region gets every year for improvements, Kuhn said. That funding figure wasn’t available this week, and Kuhn said how much they receive will guide plans for other improvements at the area’s state parks and historic sites.

The funding improvements follow more than two years of austerity for the parks system. In 2010, the parks department threatened to close more than 50 parks and historic sites, as well as cutting resources to 24 other parks, to meet an $11 million state funding cut.

Public outcry resulted in funding restoration to keep the parks open, but capital projects and staffing were still impacted during the downturn.

Kuhn said his region is in the process of hiring four new employees now.

“We went basically two years with no hiring here and a lot of attrition,” he said. “So I think we also feel very good that we’ve sort of turned that corner and are moving in the right direction.”

The new hires will fall far short of bringing the region back to its pre-recession staffing level, Kuhn said.

The developments are encouraging also to Robin Dropkin, executive director of the advocacy group Parks and Trails New York.

“Of course we’re thrilled,” said Dropkin, whose organization issued a report in 2009 that outlined infrastructure deterioration in the state’s parks. Her group has also been active in lobbying the state for improved support of the parks system.

“To have a governor come in in these still pretty bad economic times and say, ‘This is important enough to put some money toward it,’ is very gratifying,” she said. “This is something that people really love and cherish, and it’s part of their New York lifestyle, part of the New York legacy.”

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save the victoria pool society said...

let us hope for an earlier victoria pool opening and season tickets.

save the victoria pool society said...

let us hope for an earlier victoria pool opening and season tickets.