Niskayuna board approves measure to support Mohawk River State Park acquisition

A Mohawk River State Park trail map on the trail off Whitmyer Drive

A Mohawk River State Park trail map on the trail off Whitmyer Drive

NISKAYUNA — Niskayuna took one more step this past week toward a potential acquisition of Mohawk River State Park when the Town Board approved a resolution supporting the potential transfer of the park from the state to the town.

The resolution states the town’s intention to take any further steps necessary to pursue the transfer of the 105-acre park.

During the board’s Tuesday meeting, the resolution passed 4-0, with Town Board member John Della Ratta absent.

Discussions between the town and the state department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation were facilitated last year by Assemblyman Phil Steck, with negotiations still ongoing for the town to take ownership of the park, which was acquired by the state from the Schenectady Museum in 2006.

The state previously informed the town that the board should pass a resolution formally confirming its intentions to take control of the park before the transfer can be completed.

The resolution notes that the town envisions conducting a series of renovations to the park, including increased parking, rustic benches and additional trail marking signs.

“The idea is minimal trail improvement so that it remains rustic,” Niskayuna Town Supervisor Jamie Puccioni said on Wednesday. “This is a little piece of the Adirondacks or a little piece of the Catskill right here in Niskayuna. So it will remain a forever wild green space with trail options. People already mountain bike on some of those trails, so looking at some improvements that could allow mountain biking on some of the trails more easily.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Niskayuna resident Thomas Hodgkins told the board that he opposed the potential acquisition of the park.

“What nature enthusiasts want is not more parking, trails with gravel on them like you’ve done in other parks and it’s not more bathrooms,” he said. “That’s not what nature enthusiasts want. We don’t want more pavement. This is completely contradictory to wild lands and what nature enthusiasts want.”

Puccioni said there would be no paving work done in the park or gravel added to trails if the town acquires the state park. The supervisor added that the only parking that would be added would be to complement the existing lot at the Whitmyer Road park entrance. Puccioni said the current parking at the site is not clearly marked.

“We just want to have it more delineated and organized for a minimal parking area with four to six spots that pretty much already exists,” Puccioni said on Wednesday. “But adding gravel and a sign that maybe has a QR code that shows a map, that’s educational signage.”

Resident Gregory Deacon, whose property on Covington Court buttresses the state park, asked the board if the town would seek grants to develop and maintain the park.

“As residents, our major interest is that [the park] remains forever wild,” Deacon said.

Puccioni replied later in the meeting that the town would apply for state funding for park upgrades.

Resident Andrew Rizzi, who runs a mountain biking program for children that utilizes the park trails, told the board that he supports the transfer of the land to the town.

“I think that as a group of children getting into trails, we volunteer our time right now in Central Park to clean up those trails and we’d love to do some more volunteer work within the trails of Niskayuna,” he said. “A lot of those things I think can happen in an easier fashion if we’re dealing with the town as opposed to the state.”

Puccioni said that during discussions with New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that if the property is transferred, the state will require the deed to stipulate that the park will remain forever wild.

“In my conversations with [Regional Director of New York State Parks Saratoga-Capital Region] Alane Ball Chinian, she made it very clear that the state would only consider a transfer if the deed clearly articulated that this land would be forever wild in perpetuity,” Puccioni said. “They asked if the town would be amenable to that and I said, ‘Absolutely, that’s our intention as well.’”

Niskayuna Town Board member Jessica Brennan during the meeting said that the town has received correspondence from grassroots organizations interested in lending a hand in helping to clean up the park.

Puccioni said signs could be placed at various park entrances to guide visitors to specific trails. She added that the town would examine whether any trails in the park need to be rerouted to limit erosion.

The supervisor said the town is hoping to complete a transfer with the state by the spring or summer.

“I think this is pretty awesome,” Town Board member Jason Moskowitz said of the potential park acquisition. “We hear all the time from our residents about how much they love our parks but that there’s always room for improvement. We hear a lot about maintaining and keeping green space and I think this takes care of both of those.”

Categories: News, News, Schenectady County, Your Niskayuna

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