The city’s Waterfront Park on Saratoga Lake was in full use Wednesday afternoon, the first day it was open to the public.
“I’ve been waiting for this,” said William Stephen of Saratoga Springs.
Stephen was pulling his new blue kayak from the lake onto a small launch dock at the city-owned park off Crescent Avenue.
The SUNY Adirondack student said it costs $8 to launch the kayak at the state boat launch at the north end of the five-mile-long recreational lake, while there is no charge at the new city park.
Nine cars were parked in what was once the parking lot for the Waterfront Restaurant, which the city demolished last year as it prepared the park for use. Ten picnic tables are located on the grass along the lakefront property and signs note the park is open from dawn until dusk.
No motorized boats, no swimming, no camping and no campfires are permitted at the park. Fishing is allowed.
A gazebo and restrooms that were once part of the Waterfront Restaurant are still on the property. The restrooms are locked and portable toilets are located at the corner of the parking lot.
Mike Riley of nearby Cassidy Drive said he remembers when the Waterfront Restaurant was a popular destination, especially during the summer thoroughbred meet in Saratoga Springs.
He said the restaurant had live music at dusk under a large tent near the gazebo.
“During the track season there was a waiting list and long lines,” Riley said.
Riley’s son, Pat Riley, a teacher on Staten Island, was visiting his father with his two sons, Brady, 4, and Colby, 2. They were looking for crayfish along the shore.
Ed Ramsey, who has lived in Saratoga Springs all his life, said he hoped the park would remain open during the winter months so it could be used to access the lake for ice fishing.
“They got a good thing going here,” Ramsey said.
Mayor Scott Johnson announced at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that the city Department of Public Works had finished preparing the park and it would open Wednesday.
The city purchased the nearly four acres of property in 2006 for $2 million using a portion of a $5 million open space bond issue passed by city voters in 2002. The land spans from the lake up a gradual slope to Crescent Avenue.
The city was awarded a $200,000 grant from the state Environmental Protection Fund in 2009 for park development but received the money last year, Johnson said,
“It is the only lakeside property now owned by the city,” Johnson said.
Five years ago a master plan for the entire property was developed by the LA Group of Saratoga Springs.
Johnson said the existing parking lot will be reduced in size in coming years and a larger lot will be built on a plateau near Crescent Avenue. This part of the property is currently being investigated by an archaeologist as part of the state’s Environmental Quality Review regulations.
The economic recession that began in 2008 put the city’s lake park development plans on the back burner. The plans also call for an amphitheater on the second plateau of the parkland between the lake-level property and the upper plateau, Johnson said.
Joseph D’Andrea, a longtime city resident and businessman, while looking over the new park Wednesday afternoon said it was nice, but may be too small for large crowds — especially the parking.
“It’s good for the neighborhood,” said D’Andrea.
The only other public access to the lake — other than the marinas around the lake — is the state boat launch off Route 9P at the mouth of Fish Creek.