Saratoga County

Spa park tennis players lucky to have Friends

In the mid-1990s the four clay tennis courts at the Saratoga Spa State Park were starting to show

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In the mid-1990s the four clay tennis courts at the Saratoga Spa State Park were starting to show their age.

The four courts, which are located off Roosevelt Drive across from the Homemade Theater and park administration building and are free to park visitors, were installed in the 1930s, according to Stephen Miller of Wilton. Miller is a member of the Friends of Saratoga Spa State Park.

The Har-Tru type clay courts require a considerable amount of maintenance. Such things as sweeping, watering and rolling the green clay surface are needed on a daily basis.

Some tennis enthusiasts, who were also members of the Friends of Saratoga Spa State Park, received permission eight years ago to start maintaining the courts, which are open, free-of-charge, to the public.

Today the courts are in pristine condition, thanks to the efforts of the Friends, which is a nonprofit group of about 70 people who provide a variety of volunteer services and some private funding to the 2,200-acre state park in Saratoga Springs.

“It’s really a partnership with Saratoga Spa State Park,” Miller said.

“We provide volunteer labor and maintain the courts.”

The park provides a new load of Har-Tru clay surface for the courts each spring. Har-Tru tennis court clay is made from “billion year old, Precambrian metabasalt found in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia,” according to the Collins Company Web site (www.collinscompany.com).

Once the new clay surface is down, a subcommittee of the Friends starts its almost daily maintenance of the courts.

The Friends nail down the fabric lines, they sweep and roll the courts, they even installed an inground watering system so the Har-Tru can be properly watered down before rolling.

“Water and rolling are the two keys to a good clay court,” Miller said.

Dan Blanchfield of Saratoga Springs, a member of the Friends board of directors like Miller, and Jeff Thompson of Clifton Park, have been key players in bringing the four tennis courts back to their former glory, Miller said.

Tennis players like clay courts because the surface is easier on the players’ legs and the tennis games last longer because the ball comes off the clay surface at a much slower pace than off asphalt or composition-surface tennis courts.

About a year ago, the Friends put in a new entrance gate and slate entrance walkway to the courts, complete with a small garden.

“We share the responsibility,” said Michael Greenslade, manager of the Saratoga Spa State Park.

“Our responsibility ends in the spring when a company comes and levels the courts and puts down the Har-Tru,” Greenslade said.

“They do every bit of the daily maintenance over there,” he said about the Friends.

“They have a tennis subcommittee to watch over the courts,” Greenslade said. “It’s unique to Spa State Park.”

Greenslade said the volunteer work on the tennis courts frees up park employees to do other work around the state park.

Greenslade said the Friends of Saratoga Spa State Park incorporated in the late 1990s. James Kettlewell, a retired Skidmore College professor, is current Friends president.

“It’s a very active friends group,” Greenslade said. “They have been extremely helpful.”

Over the past few years the Friends have rebuilt the Hathorn No. 3 pavilion and have finished the Hayes pavilion near the Spouter spring.

“They also help support different environmental education programs,” he said. For example, the Friends are active during the popular spring tradition of stocking trout in the Geyser stream that runs through the park.

“They are a real good bunch of people to have around, very positive,” Greenslade said.

People interested in joining the Friends group can become members by paying a small fee each year. For example, individuals pay $25 per year or a family $40. Students and senior citizens become members by paying just $5 per year. Contributions and membership fees can be sent to: The Friends of the Spa State Park, 19 Roosevelt Drive, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.

Categories: Schenectady County

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