People can no longer swim in Scotia’s Collins Lake, but this summer, they’ll be able to enjoy the water in a different way.
At a special meeting last month, the Scotia Board of Trustees unanimously supported a proposal to purchase watercraft and rent them to the public at the lake starting this summer.
“[Collins Lake] is such a great resource, we wanted people to continue to utilize and enjoy the lake,” Parks and Recreation Supervisor Jim Marx said. “We thought this would be a good way for the lake to be utilized for recreation since we can’t swim anymore.”
Marx has worked with the village to restore the clarity to the lake’s water, which became cloudy with clay and sediment after tropical storms Irene and Lee in 2011.
Scotia Mayor Kris Kastberg said the village made several efforts to clear the water to meet the state Department of Health’s regulations and bring back the favorite local summer pastime, but nothing worked.
“We tried flushing the lake, lowering the level and flushing out the cloudy water with fresh, treating the water with a clarifier, putting a plastic mat down in the swimming area and more,” Kastberg said. “We’ve had professional advising all the way on this, and now, everyone has come to the conclusion we’ll just have to wait for Mother Nature take its course and clear things up on its own.”
A time frame of how long that will take is unclear, Kastberg said, but it will probably be several years before Collins Lake becomes swimmable again.
In the meantime, Marx thought if the lake won’t be full of swimmers, people should be enjoying the lake with boat rentals.
On Wednesday, the Board of Trustees will hold a public hearing for the village’s proposed 2016-2017 budget. In the most recent financial plan, the village set aside $5,500 to purchase two one-man kayaks, a two-man kayak, a canoe, a rowboat and two hydro-bikes to become available for rent at the lake this summer.
“We just ordered them,” Marx said of the village’s new watercraft. “It’s really exciting.”
The village usually budgeted $30,000 to operate and maintain swimming at the lake each year, but this was the first time the line item was eliminated. Since 2011’s tropical storms, the funds were used to pay for the attempts to clear the water, but now the money will be used for other parks maintenance and improvements, including boat purchases.
Boat rentals are expected to become available in late June and continue through late August, a roughly eight-week period.
Marx said the village’s summer recreation counselors will be responsible for renting out the water crafts, which will be available for rent from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
“People can just paddle around and fish, or enjoy the birds and the peace and quiet,” Marx said. “There will be plenty to see.”
Kastberg said the kayaks, canoe and rowboats will be available for rent for a four-hour period, while the hydro bikes can be rented for two hours. Rentals will cost $5 for residents and $10 for non-residents.
“If it works out well, we’ll expand it as well as the hours and dates,” Marx said. “If there’s a big demand, maybe down the road we could hire a person who isn’t a college student who will be around for more than the summer and start the season earlier in the spring and extend it through the fall, but we’ll see how it goes.”
“This will get people out on the lake,” Kastberg said. “Collins Lake is the deepest in Schenectady County and it has some nice fish in it. Now if you don’t have your own boat to fish in, you can rent one.”
The mayor also mentioned the village library, which is located within Collins Park, has fishing gear for children to borrow.
Kastberg said the new boat rentals will complement his up-and-coming parks-use initiative.
In the 1.7-square-mile village of Scotia, there are four parks: Collins Park, Freedom Park, Quinlan Park and the Flint property. Since Kastberg took office a decade ago, several amenities have been added to them, including a dog park, a community garden, municipal docks on the river, a boat launch, the Lions Club Pavilion, summer recreation programs for children and more.
“Now, we’re going to have boat rentals, too,” Kastberg said. “Over the years, we’ve done a lot of improvements to our parks, and I’m not sure residents know what’s available to them.
“Four parks is a lot of parks for one village to have,” he added. “Just like with my house, I try and do something each year to improve it. We’ve worked to do the same thing with the parks because we want to improve the community, and they’re a wonderful place for the community to enjoy.”
Reach Gazette reporter Kate Seckinger at 395-3113, kseck[email protected] or @KateSeckinger on Twitter on Twitter.