Visitor center planned at Wilton Wildlife Preserve

Building to be named for longtime park supporter Larry Gordon
Larry Gordon, Wilton trail coordinator, talks at Camp Saratoga in Wilton on April 22, 2018.
Larry Gordon, Wilton trail coordinator, talks at Camp Saratoga in Wilton on April 22, 2018.

WILTON — Leaders of the Wilton Wildife Preserve & Park and the family of the late Larry Gordon announced plans for a year-round visitors’ center at the expansive preserve’s Scout Road location.

The visitors’ center will be at the location of the current caretaker’s cabin on Scout Road, and will be named for Gordon, a long-time town of Wilton resident and community leader, as well as neighbor and supporter of the park. The building will include a place for his large collection of Boy Scout memorabilia from when the property was Boy Scout Camp Saratoga.

“The Visitor Center will allow the town of Wilton and Wildlife Wildlife Preserve & Park to better meet the needs of the park’s users,” said Town Supervisor John Lant. “Park visitors will be able to come to a central location to gather information or maps and to learn about upcoming events and programs. Exhibits at the Visitors’ Center will be used to inform the public about the important historical and ecological features of Camp Saratoga and the Saratoga Sandplains.”

The park is owned by the town of Wilton. It includes 2,400 acres spread among several locations in the rare terrain of the Saratoga sandplains, including the former Boy Scout camp, and is devoted to the preservation of the endangered Karner blue butterfly and other natural species. It allows passive recreational uses like hiking and cross-country skiing. There is also a historic fire tower on the property.

The Camp Saratoga portion of the park includes 310 acres on Scout Road. It operated as a Boy Scout camp from 1930 until 2001, when it was sold by the Scouts to The Nature Conservancy, which later transferred the core of camp buildings to the town, and sold the rest of the acreage to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. A non-profit oversees management of the park, which is a partnership between the town and DEC, overseen by a non-profit board.

Gordon, a former Saratoga County planning director and one-time member of the Wilton Town Board, lived next to Camp Saratoga and was a lifelong Boy Scouting supporter, with a large collection of documents and materials related to scouting and Camp Saratoga. He died in 2018.

“The family is so pleased to know that with his passing, the collection will have a permanent home in a museum located in the Visitors Center,” said his son, Scott Gordon.

The Visitors Center will be owned and maintained by the town of Wilton, but money is also being raised by the preserve’s board to support the project. About $40,000 has been raised so far from a matching grant from local businessman Frank Parillo, but there is no set fundraising goal.

The existing cabin could be renovated or a new building constructed, depending on how successful the town and park are with grant applications and other fundraising efforts, said Margo Olson, executive director of the park. A cost for the project has yet to be determined.

“Having a physical Visitor Center for people to visit and to utilize as a resource for these programs and activities will greatly improve the educational and recreational programming,” said Jennifer Benaman, chairwoman of the Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park board.

The next scheduled fundraiser will be at the Wishing Well restaurant on Thursday, March 19, with the restaurant donating 50 percent of all dinner proceeds to the park and visitors’ center project.

Reach staff writer Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Categories: News, Saratoga County

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