Anchor Diamond Park at Hawkwood Preserve will officially open to the public with a ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday in the park’s new parking lot on Middle Line Road.
The park, located on 246 acres near the intersection of Route 50 and Middle Line Road, includes nature trails and the foundation remains of buildings that once belonged to some of the town’s richest families.
The park has been built at no cost to town taxpayers other than labor time, thanks to an estate’s donation to the town.
The town bought the historic Hawkwood property in December following two years of negotiations.
The heavily wooded property will be a kind of park Ballston hasn’t had before – a passive recreation park, open to the public for hiking, cross-country skiing and similar uses. There won’t be any playing fields.
“It’s more of a hiking trail kind of place, and we’d like to tie in some history,” said town Councilwoman Kelly Stewart, liaison to the town Parks and Recreation Committee. “Because it’s a nature preserve, we may use it as a way for the education system to educate youth about ecosystems and nature.”
The property is known as “Hawkwood” because that was the name of a mansion that once stood on the property.
The Frank Schidzick estate provided the money that allowed the town to make the purchase. Schidzick was a local farmer who left $800,000 to the town, but he had no connection to the Hawkwood property.
The terms of the donation included a stipulation that the park created with the money be known as Anchor Diamond Park.
The private land conservation group Saratoga PLAN will hold a permanent conservation easement on the site to prevent its future development.
The Schidzick estate bequeathed the money to the town after Frank Schidzick’s death in 2001. The Ballston Lake resident’s bequest went unused for years, while town residents debated potential projects. In 2012, there was a proposal to buy farmland near Ballston Spa for a park, but that deal fell through.
In early 2014, a tentative agreement was reached to use the money to buy the Hawkwood land, which town officials have wanted for many years. Negotiations on the purchase finally resulted in a deal in December.
The only other Ballston town parks are Jenkins Park, in Burnt Hills, and a small playground park in the Carpenter’s Acres development at the north end of town.
The new park will be open for picnicking, walking and bird watching in the summer, and snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hiking and cross-country skiing in the winter. Hunting will not be allowed.
Stewart said two hiking trails have been cleared so far, with Boy Scouts building foot bridges over a creek. More trails are planned in the future to access wetlands inhabited by a number of bird species, as well as areas with old-growth trees, pine woods and other features.
According to town historian Rick Reynolds, the original building on the property dated to the 1790s. It was built by Henry Walton, who bucked the trend at the time and decided not to build his mansion in Saratoga, Reynolds said.
In the 1800s, the property was owned by the wealthy Delevan family of Albany, and later by another wealthy family, the Bakers.
Reynolds said there were two archeological digs around the foundations of the old buildings over the summer, but a lot remains unknown.
“There’s an old fireplace that is kind of a mystery; we don’t know why it’s there,” Stewart said.
The remaining Schidzick estate money can be used for future improvements at the new park, including restrooms.
The town comprehensive plan in 2006 identified Hawkwood as a property worth trying to permanently preserve, along with the nearby Cappiello farm on Route 50. The Cappiello property has since been acquired by another farmer and has been placed under a permanent conservation easement.
The town highway department built the new parking lot on Middle Line Road, and a local tree company donated trees for the parking lot. Stewart said members of the town Parks and Recreation Committee contributed physical labor to the project.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.