Contractors have been working in subzero temperatures this week building a large picnic pavilion on an island between Saratoga and Washington counties.
The structure will be part of the Hudson Crossing Park, which this year will offer a children’s garden and recreation facilities but someday could be home to a $20 million environmental education center.
Northumberland Town Councilman George Hodgson is a member of the not-for-profit Hudson Crossing Park Inc. board of directors as well as Saratoga County’s environmental management director.
He said Friday that the 20- by 50-foot pavilion will be completed this month and a dock will be installed in the spring to increase the recreation facilities on the island.
“The island is a hidden gem,” he said. “People walk their dogs and hike around a little now, but soon there will be a lot more to do.”
The island is just north of Schuylerville. It sits between the Champlain Canal and Saratoga County to the west and the Hudson River and Washington County to the east.
Hodgson said a $250,000 federal grant secured by former Congressman John Sweeney is being added to a $225,000 grant from the New York State Canal Corp. to fund the initial work on the island.
The island is owned by the Canal Corp., but Hodgson said he expects a long-term lease will be signed within a few weeks that will allow plans for the environmental education center to move forward.
“Once we have the lease, a major fundraising campaign can be put into place,” he said.
Most of the island is in Northumberland, and the town has taken a lead role in much of the project, Hodgson said. Plans have been in the works for years to build facilities on the island for school groups, tourists, researchers and people interested in nature trails. Sketches have been drawn of an elaborate educational center.
Cindy Wian was hired last year as a part-time project manager for the children’s play garden. Hodgson said an anonymous donor has made a contribution to pay Wian’s salary for an additional six months.
In her end of the year report to the board last week, Wian said she was pleased with the progress that’s been made to date.
“The footprint of the play garden has been cleared and elevated to ensure proper drainage. Final steps in completing the ground preparation include creating mounds to bury two crawl-thru tunnels, shaping the west hillside so that it will be suitable for two slides and the boat deck overlook, and creating the ‘king of the hill’ mound in the northwest corner,” she reported. “Additional ‘dirt-shaping’ will be done to make a foundation for the pathways, for the labyrinth, for the moss bed, and for raised garden beds. Finally, an irrigation system will be added; either soaker hoses or sprinklers.”
Other features will include stone dust pathways with mosaic-tiled stepping stones, a labyrinth and a zig-zag balance beam using wood and wood composite pieces that have already been prepared for installation.