Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site already ‘a mess’

Last summer, Jeanean Richards could see green grass leading up to a stretch of the old Erie Canal fr

Last summer, Jeanean Richards could see green grass leading up to a stretch of the old Erie Canal from the front door of her Railroad Street home.

But as she looks out at the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, one of 55 parks and historic sites the state shut down, the Fort Hunter resident now sees a lot of dandelions, tall grass, snakes and beavers.

“Everybody says this is a mess,” said Richards, who added that neighbors have been talking about the property recently.

She said she assumes the snakes and beavers are finding the place more hospitable now that the grass is no longer being mowed.

“I wish they’d cut it,” said Richards, who was walking along Schoharie Street with her daughter Chianne on Monday.

Richards said her husband will be upset if he can no longer access the Schoharie Creek from the site — it’s a popular fishing spot, especially for smallmouth bass.

The historic site’s closure will also have an impact on boaters who use the launch situated at the end of Dufel Road, accessible from Hartley Lane off state Route 5S.

That boat launch is on the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site property as well.

“There’s an awful lot of people that use that service,” Florida Town Supervisor William Strevy said of the boat launch.

It’s one of four public boat launches in Montgomery County with a hard-surface ramp people can use for launching motorized boats into the Mohawk River.

The parking lot at the Yankee Hill Lock, the easternmost portion of Schoharie Crossing, where people parked to visit the historic lock or ride on the Canalway Trail bike path, was gated off Monday, the picnic tables stacked and unusable.


The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in February announced plans to shut down 41 parks and 14 historic sites statewide, including Schoharie Crossing in Montgomery County, Johnson Hall in Fulton County, John Boyd Thacher State Park in Albany County and Max V. Shaul State Park in Schoharie County.

The shutdowns and service reductions were considered necessary for the state to address a budget deficit of more than $8 billion.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in a visit to Johnstown on Monday, offered a solution to allow New York state to maintain operations at the sites targeted for closure this year.

Medicaid relief legislation, he said, will give New York an unexpected $3 billion windfall. He said he would recommend that Gov. David Paterson allocate a small portion of the funding to keep all the facilities open.

Unless that happens, though, the sites are closed.

And although some sites like Schoharie Crossing aren’t easily locked up, agency spokesman Dan Keefe on Monday said people might be asked to leave if found on closed-down parks managed by the office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

“People should go to the parks that are open,” he said.

He said the state agency closes parks on a regular basis even in normal budget times — such as in the evening or at the end of the season. When there’s a concern for the safety of patrons or for the infrastructure in a park, “in those instances we ask people to leave,” he said.

Potential risks to patrons, Keefe said, include poison ivy and deer ticks.


Johnson Hall, the historic home of Sir William Johnson that’s been opened to the public for the past 105 years since it was given to the state, is one of 14 historic sites shut down by the state this year.

Volunteers organized by the Friends of Johnson Hall, a non-profit organization, are helping to maintain the grounds, said Heidi Meka, the group’s president.

The site serves as a historical destination for schoolchildren and often hosts community events and weddings.

“As far as community impact, there’s very little opportunity for tourism in Fulton County. We have historic sites,” she said.

If people aren’t traveling to Johnson Hall, Meka said she fears dining and lodging establishments will feel it.

“All that important tourism money will decline — that, of course, is a concern,” she said.

There are other things to do in Fulton County aside from visiting historic sites, said Wally Hart, director of the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Johnson Hall is still really important to us, people come from all over the country and all over the world to see Johnson Hall and learn about the history of this region,” he said.

But, he added: “There are other things for people to do while they’re here, other sites they can see. We’re just hoping that the message doesn’t get out there that Johnson Hall is closed and don’t bother coming at all.”

Keefe said the office has reassigned 85 people who would have been working at the shut-down parks to parks that are open.

Other cost savings from the closures will come from not hiring seasonal staffers and a reduction in maintenance and utility costs.

Since the announcement of the planned closures, some artifacts held in the sites have been moved to Peebles Island State Park, said Keefe, who could not give examples of what items were moved.

There’s still confusion on exactly what the state’s plans are for individual sites, said Daniel MacKay, director of public policy at the Preservation League of New York State, a non-profit that works to help preserve historic sites and landscapes.

He said the organization is contacting individual sites to learn what their status is.

“Does it mean the gates are locked, does it mean facilities are not open but public access is allowed? We’re still collecting the details on that. I have not seen any specific release detailing what the status is of the sites,” he said.

For Richards, who said she and her family use the trails “all the time” at the Schoharie Crossing site, the closure is “horrible.”

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply