It’s been a long time coming, but Brown’s Beach — the first public beach on Saratoga Lake in nearly a decade — will open Saturday.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $5 million town beach is set for 11 a.m., commencing a day of activities that will include music, games, food and fireworks. Those who wish can also handprint-paint two giant commemorative Adirondack chairs.
“Basically, we put out a call to everyone who assisted and helped with the project that the Town Board wants to recognize them,” said Stillwater town Supervisor Edward Kinowski, who has performed some of the labor himself.
Sunbathers have already been using the sandy beach for several weeks, but it hasn’t been open for swimming.
The opening of the beach at the south end of Saratoga Lake is the town making good on plans set in place in 2013, when it purchased the property for $4.1 million. The purchase headed off the potential for a hotel or condominiums on the site, as well as preserving public access.
The five-mile-long lake has long been popular with boaters and fishermen. But in recent years it has had only limited public access, with a state boat launch at its north end and a partially developed public park in Saratoga Springs — so the new access is welcome.
“We have received nothing but enthusiastic support,” Kinowski said.
Computer chipmaker GlobalFoundries has a commitment to pay the town $3 million toward the beach purchase if it ever builds a second computer chip plant at its Fab 8 campus — but the town decided to move ahead without the certainty of ever receiving that money.
“We knew from the start it was a gamble we were going for,” Kinowski said.
GlobalFoundries continues to increase production at its first plant in the Luther Forest Technology Campus, and the company has said whether a second plant is built will depend on market demand. It already has municipal approvals, though, and the $3 million payment was one of the conditions of approval.
Brown’s Beach was the location of a public beach owned and operated by Amos and Harold Brown from after World War I until the 1950s. After that it remained a public beach still known as Brown’s Beach, but eventually the property deteriorated and was sold for potential waterfront development. The beach hasn’t been open since 2007. The land became overgrown with vegetation.
A hotel and resort proposed there generated a lot of public opposition, as did other development ideas. The town bought the land from a private Saratoga Springs development company in 2013.
Since then, the town has invested about $750,000 in planning the project, clearing the land and re-establishing the beach. It also received a substantial amount of volunteer labor and donations. Kinowski said recreation fees and payments in lieu of taxes from GlobalFoundries have covered the town’s costs, so there’s been no direct impact on taxpayers.
The 7.3-acre site features 300 feet of sand beach, and a 500-foot picnic area.
Menneto Powersports is leasing the on-site marina, while the Panza restaurant family is operating the existing restaurant building as Doc Brown’s Lakeside Tavern, which opened last fall. Kinowski said town officials hope revenue from the two business leases will cover the entire cost of operating the beach.
The sand was put in last year, but wasn’t ready for use. Volunteers have spent several weeks removing driftwood, weeds and other debris that was deposited over the winter.
The town’s biggest need at this point, Kinowski said, is more lifeguards to staff the beach.
“We’re trying to accommodate everyone we can,” Kinowski said. “It’s possible there will be some weekdays we can’t open for lack of lifeguards.”
A second new public access to Saratoga Lake, a city-operated waterfront park on the Saratoga Springs end of the lake, is also scheduled to open this summer. That park, however, will not have a swimming beach.
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