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Group fears Saratoga park’s pool may be closed

Group fears Saratoga park’s pool may be closed

Fears of the Victoria Pool’s possible closure in Saratoga Spa State Park this summer have angered pe

Fears of the Victoria Pool’s possible closure in Saratoga Spa State Park this summer have angered people who champion the historic facility.

Although state park officials deny the pool is specifically slated for closure, members of the vocal Save the Victoria Pool Society believe it is.

Co-founder Louise Goldstein said the society plans to protest if the state decides to close the pool, perhaps by having a rally.

“We’re not going to be quiet,” she said.

But agency officials wouldn’t confirm that the Victorian Pool will close.

“We haven’t finalized plans for specific parks,” said Dan Keefe, spokesman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Keefe said those decisions are expected to be made soon.

“We’re looking at doing park-by-park review.”

It’s no secret that the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is going to have a tough year.

“It’s anticipated that there will be closures. I think it’s been pretty well publicized,” said Alane Ball Chinian, regional director for the Saratoga-Capital District Region of the parks office.

Statewide, the agency has cut 256 employees since the 2008-09 fiscal year, including 67 workers who would get the ax under the proposed 2010-11 budget.

Next fiscal year’s budget would reduce the agency’s operating budget by $29 million to $155 million.

“Simply stated, we will no longer be able to continue to operate all of the facilities and programs we currently administer,” Commissioner Carol Ash told the joint fiscal committees of the state Legislature last month about the 2010-11 budget plan.

A statewide advocacy organization is urging the state to fund the parks so they won’t close.

“If the governor was serious about New York’s economic development, he would restore at least $20 million to State Parks’ operating funds and prevent any parks from closing,” said Robin Dropkin, executive director of Parks & Trails New York.

Dropkin said a proposal by Gov. David A. Paterson to raise park fees this year and generate $4 million more in revenue would still mean closing some parks.

Locally, closing the Victoria Pool would eliminate the revenue stream from pool patrons who pay $8 for adults and $4 for children to enter.

Goldstein contends the pool is a moneymaker for the state because it fills up fast in the morning on hot days and people wait outside for a chance to sunbathe or swim there.

“It’s much more than a swimming pool. It’s a place that people come from all over the world.”

With its arched architecture, the Victoria Pool is a favorite hangout for New York City Ballet dancers, local residents and tourists.

She questioned the criteria the state is using to decide which state parks stay open and which will be closed.

Goldstein noted that the pool has never spent a season closed, even during World War II when Saratoga Race Course was closed.

Goldstein’s “Save the Victoria Pool” group formed in 2003 when needed capital projects threatened to close the pool. Public funds were secured to fix up the aging pool and since then Goldstein and 16 other board members have protested the late June opening and early closing of the pool.

Park officials have cited lack of lifeguard help, low attendance before schools let out and cooler weather as why they wait until late June to open.

“We thought it was saved, but the reason we didn’t change our name was we were very afraid of what the future would hold. And unfortunately we were right,” Goldstein said.

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