Dozens of ideas to improve the Saratoga Spa State Park were suggested Monday night — from a fenced-in dog park to better grooming of the park’s cross country ski trails.
More than 200 people attended the first informational meeting on the Spa State Park’s master plan for the next 20 years. The 2,200-acre state park is the first in the state to start a new master plan.
Park Manager Michael Greenslade discussed the many features of the park.
Thomas Lyons, director of resource management for all state parks, then invited members of the audience in the Gideon Putnam Hotel’s ballroom to make comments.
“The park is, for sure, one of the jewels in the state park system,” Lyons said.
Part of the audience was there to encourage the park to continue and improve the “dog park” located on state park land on the east side of South Broadway (Route 9) at Crescent Street. This open, grass-covered field is where people can bring their dogs and allow them to run without a leash.
Ken Ivins, the city’s finance commissioner and a dog owner, said he feels the endangered Karner blue butterfly, which has habitat near the unofficial dog area, and the dogs can co-exist without causing problems.
“Fence in the area we use now,” Ivins said to applause from the audience. Ivins presented the park officials with a petition urging the creation of a safe, fenced-in dog park, with approximately 250 signatures on it from people who live in Saratoga Springs and surrounding towns.
Another segment of the audience was strongly in favor of opening the Victoria and Peerless pools, the two outdoor pools in the park, earlier in the season. They said the park was losing a significant amount of revenue by not opening the pools in late May rather than late June.
Several people asked that better-marked and more bicycle and walking trails be created that connect to trails outside the park.
Mary Beth Delarm of Saratoga Springs said she understands there are 209 acres off Route 50 that the state could purchase to improve the Route 50 entrance to the park.
Dean Higgins of Saratoga Springs said the current uses of the Lincoln Bathhouse on Route 9 near the park’s entrance are not appropriate for such a historic building.
He said when you drive past the former bathhouse there are state park police cruisers and vans parked along the front.
“Restore the Lincoln [bathhouse] to uses that would most serve the community,” Higgins said.
He questioned why the building is filled with state court administrative offices and a park police headquarters.
Another member of the audience suggested the former bathhouse would be an ideal location for a visitor center and/or a small park museum.
John Franck, the city’s accounts commissioner, said there are so many things going on in the park, so many cultural and recreational offerings, that a visitor center somewhere in the park is really needed.
More than one person mentioned restoring the empty Roosevelt No. 2 bathhouse near the park’s administration building. People suggested this be renovated and turned into a museum, interpretive center or visitor center. The building has been empty since the mid-1980s.
Laura Clark of the Saratoga Stryders, a group of running enthusiasts, said she finds too much litter and storm debris along some of the park’s trails. She suggested the courts could assign people to help pick up the litter as part of their sentence.
Others in the audience said litter is a problem because the park has removed trash barrels from many park locations.
Lyons said that all comments at the informational meeting were written down and will be circulated to those who signed up to get information mailed to them on the master plan process.
The next steps in the master plan process include the development of a draft master plan and environmental impact statement by January. A formal public hearing will be held on the draft master plan in February with a final master plan and final environmental impact statement by May 2009. The park officials hope to adopt the final master plan by next May as well.
Alane Ball Chinian, regional parks director, said written comments will be accepted by state parks up until July 18. The written comments should be sent to: Salim Adler, Planning Bureau, Agency Building One, Empire State Plaza, Albany NY 12238 or e-mailed to Adler at: [email protected]