Adirondack Park Agency OKs whitewater park

Plans for an enhanced whitewater recreation park on the Sacandaga River that could boost the local e

Plans for an enhanced whitewater recreation park on the Sacandaga River that could boost the local economy have received an important government approval.

The Adirondack Park Agency last week issued a permit allowing construction activity in the riverbed, which is essential to constructing whirlpools and waves that will be appealing to kayakers.

A study has found the Sacandaga Whitewater Park could generate more than $1 million a year in new economic activity in Hadley and Lake Luzerne, two small communities on the boundary between Saratoga and Warren counties that rely heavily on seasonal visitors.

The APA variance will allow work in the Sacandaga streambed to place large rocks to create the desired waves and pools, sometimes called “rodeo holes.”

Kayakers use the riffles and waves to “play” while traveling in the river, and they can be used in Olympic-style competitions.

“They’ve got a really neat project,” said APA spokesman Keith McKeever. “They feel it will bring a lot more people into the area.”

APA action was needed because the two communities are a few miles inside the southern boundary of the Adirondack Park. The variance was granted unanimously by the APA board at a meeting last Thursday in Ray Brook, based on a staff recommendation.

Backers of the plan, who have been working on it for a decade, still need to raise most of the estimated $2 million it will take to build the park.

John Duncan of the Sacandaga Outdoor Center, who has been the whitewater park’s chief organizer, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

The plans include building a new river access point near Stewart’s Dam on the north side of the river, and creating new water features at three points between there and the Sacandaga’s confluence with the Hudson River at Luzerne.

The 3-mile stretch of river, which is located in Hadley, is already a popular commercial rafting destination because periodic releases from the dam create fast water.

Local commercial rafting companies and the towns of Hadley and Lake Luzerne have all supported the whitewater park project, citing its potential economic benefits.

Lake Luzerne Town Supervisor Eugene Merlino said the APA approval is a major step forward, even if the money for construction isn’t in hand.

“It’s easier to try to raise money after you have the permit,” he said.

A study done in 2008 by Crane Associates of Burlington, Vt., found an improved whitewater park could draw from 17,600 to 25,000 visitors annually, bringing with them an annual economic impact of $1.7 million to $2.6 million. That could create new jobs, the study found, and put some sales tax revenue in Saratoga and Warren counties’ coffers.

“It just makes another attraction for the towns of Lake Luzerne and Hadley,” Merlino said.

Larry Woods, whitewater chairman of the Schenectady chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said he’s canoed the Sacandaga for many years and is ambivalent about the proposed changes.

“It’s a big international sport,” he said. “By building these features, it will definitely attract people from farther away. The Sacandaga now is mostly just local users.”

Under a previous rodeo hole proposal, some boulders were placed in the river near the Bow Bridge in 2006, but work had to be stopped because of high water from heavy rains, and was never rescheduled.

A state Department of Environmental Conservation permit for the work was issued in 2005 and has since expired, but organizers expect DEC to renew it.

Categories: Schenectady County

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