Saratoga County

Towns may close beaches on Great Sacandaga Lake

Several municipal beaches operating on the Great Sacandaga Lake may be closed permanently after this

Several municipal beaches operating on the Great Sacandaga Lake may be closed permanently after this summer if state regulatory reforms governing access permits are approved, according to town supervisors around the lake.

“I’m certain the beach would have to be closed,” Northampton Supervisor Linda Kemper said. “We’re not going to carry liability for any Tom, Dick or Harry to just jump in and use the premises.”

Hudson River Black River Regulating District officials say the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation wants to prevent lake access permit holders from excluding anyone from using the state-owned shoreline of the Great Sacandaga Lake. Up until now, lake access permit holders, who have the right to renew those permits each year, have had exclusive right to use the state-owned land within their permits.

Earlier this month, the regulating district submitted a set of proposed lake access permit rule reforms to the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Reform. The new rules reflect changes pushed by DEC, which asserts ultimate legal authority over the regulating district and its ability to change the lake access permit rules. According to the proposed permit rules, DEC officials want to prohibit landscaping of access permit land, including mowing grass, cutting down trees and removing significant amounts of brush, and they want to outlaw portable toilets on the state land.

“Our beach is quite a ways within the taking line, they call it, and so it’s going to make it very tough,” Mayfield Town Board member Jack Putman said. “We rent portable toilets and we put them on the [state owned] property. The Department of Health says that we have to have toilet facilities, a head and washing facilities.”

Municipalities such as Northampton and Mayfield purchase lake access permits annually and operate beaches according to town rules. At the Mayfield Town Beach, only town residents and residents of the Mayfield Central School District can purchase season permits to use the beach, which has a lifeguard staff paid for by town taxpayers.

Mayfield Supervisor Richard Argotsinger said he thinks it’s likely that the town will stop running its lifeguard program if the regulatory reforms are approved by the state. He said the town probably won’t purchase an access permit if everything becomes public access on the beach.

“There would be no point in it because we’d have no control. The way I look at it, we really won’t have the beach anymore,” Argotsinger said.

Broadalbin Supervisor Lee Hollenbeck said the Broadalbin Town Beach is different from some of the others on the lake because it’s owned directly by the DEC. He said Broadalbin obtains a special occupancy permit to operate the beach from the DEC and operate the boat launch near it. He said that DEC officials have told him that they will continue to allow Broadalbin to landscape the property and put toilets on it.

“I asked them about that. We can mow the beach, but [they] don’t allow other people to mow; how come? He said a ‘high use’ area is exempt from it,” Hollenbeck said.

When asked Friday about the status of municipal beaches if the regulatory reforms are accepted, a DEC spokeswoman said she was unable to answer the question without further research.

Hollenbeck said he’s not sure if the DEC-backed regulatory changes will allow his town to continue to charge $10 for a beach pass for town residents and $75 for out-of-towners. He said it costs about $24,000 to pay for lifeguards for the beach for the summer, and in a good summer, the town can make back as much as $8,000 in permit fees. He said that in a rainy summer, the total fees collected can shrink to $800. He said that for now, Broadalbin will probably keep its beach open unless the town is exposed to too much liability or expense.

“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing until we’re told differently,” he said.

Regulating district Executive Director Glenn LaFave said the regulating district anticipates that the state will approve the rule changes and a 30-day comment period will start sometime in June or July before the rules are brought back for final regulating district approval.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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