Protesters rally to save Caroga Lake campground (with photo gallery)

The Caroga Lake campground has special significance for April Morehouse of Gloversville and her 15-y

The Caroga Lake campground has special significance for April Morehouse of Gloversville and her 15-year-old son, Rocky.

“I went into labor when we were camping here,” Morehouse said.

Morehouse has been spending time at the campground since she was a child, calling it a family ritual. Rocky, who has Down syndrome, enjoys swimming and exploring the park.

“He has a three-wheel bicycle that he rides all over the place,” she said.

With all these memories, Morehouse said she was “shocked” when she heard the campground was one of seven campgrounds Department of Environmental Conservation planned to close because officials said they are underused. State agencies are reducing expenses to close a $9 billion budget deficit.

Morehouse was one of about 100 people who attended a rally in front of The Red Store on Route 29A to save the campground. People holding signs saying “I Love Caroga Lake” and “Cut Pork. Not Campgrounds” passed around a microphone and spoke about what the site meant to them.

Many people stated that going to the camp was a family affair, a tradition passed on through generations.

“My grandfather actually helped cut down the trees and make the campground,” said Kathy Wagoner of Gloversville. “I grew up here. My kids go here.

“They shouldn’t have to close the camp. Just keep it on a budget,” she added.

Caroga Lake resident David Oathout said closing the campground would be a slap in the face to those who visit the area hoping to explore nature.

“Not more than five, six miles down the road, there’s a sign that welcomes people to the Adirondacks. What kind of message does that send?”

The state is leaving the park to die and it should not happen, he said. “It does not cost all kind of money to run a campground,” Oathout said.

Red Store owner Donna Mastro, who helped organize the rally, worried that the closure would devastate her business and others, as well. “I have four months to make money, eight months to survive.”

The campground is the only local public swim area and boat launch. “The city kids can see what it’s like to be in the country,” she said.

If the government has to make cuts, it should not cut from low- and middle-income people, Mastro said.

“We can’t go on vacation. We can’t go the Hamptons.”

Resident Paul Gagliardo shared similar sentiments. “I’ve been up here nine years, and I can’t understand why they would close something that’s affordable for people to do,” he said. “People don’t have money. People don’t have jobs. Maybe they’re making too much money in Albany.”

Amy Lawton of Gloversville said there is a lack of things for people to do. Her 15-year-old daughter, Kellie, said if people want to stay in New York, they need services. “They take away from education and parks. It makes no sense to me.”

Val Scribner started a Facebook page to save the camp site that now has almost 4,500 members.

Elected officials also showed up to lend support to the rally. Town Supervisor Jim Selmser said he was encouraged by the attendance. He said the state needs to look at some other changes to raise revenue. For example, right now, people have to make reservations 48 hours ahead of time to use the camp site and not just show up — even if there is space.

“If you want to come here and pay cash, you can’t go in,” he said.

State Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, called the decision to close these campgrounds shortsighted and encouraged the attendees to write letters to Gov. David Paterson.

On a related note, Farley said legislators are also working to include $11 million in funding to allow some 55 parks to reopen. The National Park Service has warned state officials that New York could lose future federal Land and Water Conservation Funds if the parks stay closed. The state is supposed to receive $1.88 million of those funds this year.

Pam Wilson of Gloversville said the community is willing to step up to help save the campground.

“We’ll volunteer to work in there for free if that’s what they need,” she said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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