Emily and Heather Depew were going to Tawasentha Park.
But there was a catch. The young girls had to make a deal with Mom before they could happily splash inside the Guilderland park’s massive swimming pool.
“They had to clean their rooms first,” said Beth Depew, who lives in Guilderland. “Coming to the pool is a good motivator to get their chores done.”
Negotiations work for parents, but were not required for other people inside the park on a hot Friday afternoon. While many were in the swim, others were at picnic tables or on the spacious, recently renovated playground.
The town of Guilderland has owned the park since 1969, when it purchased the property on Route 146 from the Durfee family. The 95-acre space had been used as a small business, with the swimming pool, picnic grounds and amusement rides among the attractions.
Linda Cure, spokeswoman for the town’s parks and recreation department, said Guilderland purchased another 97 acres of nearby land during the late 1980s to bring the park to its current 192-acre size. It is officially known as Carl J. Walters Tawasentha Park, after the former town supervisor.
“We have about five miles of hiking trails,” Cure said, adding that the Normanskill Creek runs through the park. “There’s an outdoor tennis court, basketball courts, shuffleboard courts and we just recently added two pickleball courts. We have two pavilions we rent out to residents for picnics and we have the Guilderland Performing Arts Center.”
Free Thursday-night concerts — several shows feature the town band — are held during July and August.
Town residents can roam the park for free. For nonresidents, admission is $10 per car or other vehicle during weekdays, $20 on weekends. This year, because of the June 21 fire that destroyed the pool house building, swimming has been limited to residents and their guests only.
“It really is a jewel,” Cure said of Tawasentha, largest of the town’s eight parks. “We have people here early in the morning walking, we have families using the picnic areas and there’s heavy use of our two pavilions. People rent them out for parties.”
Runners know Tawasentha. Road races are sponsored by the Hudson-Mohawk Roadrunners Club and Albany Running Exchange; the Guilderland High School cross-country team uses park paths for their home course.
There’s a Babe Ruth baseball field. And a beach volleyball court. During the winter, skiers and snowshoe fans dig the snow.
Taylor Mead is still thinking about crystal-clear water. She’s manager of the T-shaped pool, and said August’s hot days have brought in nice crowds, despite the fire. “The weather this summer is so much better than it was last summer,” she said.
Mead and other pool staffers watched swimmers like Andrei Flynn, 6, and his friend, Thomas Matthews, also 6. So did the guys’ mothers.
“We spend a lot of time at the pool,” said Sharon Matthews, who lives in Guilderland. “He’s been taking swimming lessons here all summer and he loves to use the diving board.”
Matthews’ friend Laura Flynn of East Greenbush likes the rest of the park, too.
“There are a lot of great activities here for 2-year-olds and 10-year-olds, all in the same place,” she said. “It’s a nice, relaxed atmosphere.”
Some people prefer to hide in the green. Lee Lounsbury and Jack Bailly spent time with some books at a picnic table.
“We live in Guilderland and come over when we want to be in the woods and have a change of scenery,” Lounsbury said. “We just come out for an hour or so to read, walk.”
Guilderland’s Courtney Fitzgerald had a little less peace and quiet. She entertained her 3-year-old daughter Kira at the playground, and Kira was exploring the kiddie challenges.
“I love the playground,” Kira said. “I like to swing on the swings and slide on the slide.”
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