State parks in three Capital Region counties will see playground upgrades in the coming year as a result of $335,000 in funding through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York Works initiative.
John Boyd Thacher State Park in Albany County, Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga County and Schoharie Crossing State Park in Montgomery County will all have improvements made at their respective playground facilities. Each playground will be outfitted with unique themes reflecting characteristics of the park and be coupled with other site improvements relating to aesthetics or access for people with disabilities.
“The numbers tell the story of more and more people visiting the parks, and I encourage everyone to visit these new and improved areas inside the state parks as well as the beauty that New York has to offer,” Cuomo said in a news release Thursday.
At Thacher State Park in Voorheesville, the initiative will create a new playground in an underutilized horseshoe pit near a picnic area. The new playground will feature two 80-foot zip lines, cable climbers and climbing boulders.
At Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs, a new nature-themed playground will be constructed near the Hathorn Pavilion. Plans include play structures that resemble logs, mushrooms and trees.
And at Schoharie Crossing in Fort Hunter, a new playground will be built near the picnic grove by the boat launch. This area will include play structures that mimic canal boats and mules, reflecting the site’s connection to the Erie Canal.
“This is just one more piece of the puzzle to get people — especially kids — interested in the heritage of the area,” said Janice Fontanella, the park manager at Schoharie Crossing.
Construction of the playgrounds is expected to occur during the off-season and be completed by next spring. The state parks office plans to fix, modernize or create more than 50 playgrounds in parks with high visitation by families.
In total, 20 parks across the state will receive playground upgrades, with New York Works contributing a total of $2.6 million toward the effort. And that’s only the beginning.
The program’s budget this year includes $89 million to rehabilitate infrastructure and other amenities at 55 parks across the state. Millions of dollars worth of the funding has already been distributed to a wide variety of projects throughout the region, including everything from infrastructure upgrades to ski areas run by the Olympic Regional Development Authority to resurfacing projects at parks that have badly deteriorating roads.
For both Thacher State Park and Saratoga Spa State Park, the funding announced Thursday represents a second round of money through New York Works. In April, state officials announced that Saratoga Spa State Park would receive $1.5 million road resurfacing and an improvement of a trail along Route 50; Thacher State Park was given $350,000 to improve picnic shelters and parking areas.
Eileen Larrabee, the associate director of the Alliance for New York State Parks, praised the latest round of funding through the program. She said the investment into the playgrounds will serve as visual examples of the improvements brought through New York Works.
“The people will be able to see their investment and enjoy them,” she said. “It does move the ball forward.”
Larrabee said visible park improvement can also help spur other investments, perhaps from private sources. She said a goal of the alliance is to encourage private partnerships within the state park system so that it never again falls into disrepair.
“Those projects still need to be maintained, and we need to find a permanent funding source so we don’t slide back again,” she said.