Over the next decade or so, John Boyd Thacher State Park could become a destination for adventure sports ranging from rock climbing to caving.
State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said the changes will revitalize the park “in a way that we haven’t seen in generations.”
Volunteers have already begun to do a significant portion of the work, mainly building trails.
The Frontier Sno-Riders Snowmobile Club worked with the state to connect the statewide snowmobile trail to the park.
“FSR looks forward to providing safe and well-groomed trail access to the state park for winter recreation enjoyment,” said Chad Saddlemire, president of the club.
Similarly, the Northeastern Cave Conservancy has been working on caving in the park for two years.
It received a permit to locate caves in the park in 2012 and it also built a bat-friendly gate at Hailes Cave, the longest cave in the park.
There are more than 40 caves in the park, but Hailes Cave is the jewel. It’s about 2 miles long with many mapped passages, according to the conservancy.
The state had been banning all access to the cave except for those with a $1 million insurance policy, which cavers protested because individuals generally couldn’t get a policy.
Now, with the new plan, things will change.
“The NCC [Northeastern Cave Conservancy] is both grateful and enthusiastic to be offered opportunities in cave management within the park boundaries,” conservancy president Robert Addis said.
He said the group’s mission is to conserve the “unique underground resource” in the park, protecting it from huge groups that cause damage and individuals who act recklessly by entering a cave without any knowledge or preparation.
The state is also working with the Thacher Climbing Coalition to develop a “rock climbing management plan.” That plan will allow rock climbing, but only in certain areas of the park.
Gabriel Miani of the coalition said he was excited by the plans.
“We look forward to working with New York State Parks to establish this activity in a thoughtful, sustainable and responsible manner for the mutual benefit of the park, the surrounding communities and the East Coast climbing community,” he said. “The hard work starts now.”
The state is also looking for private companies that want to develop and run a high ropes adventure course in the park. Companies will submit bids and proposals for the potentially lucrative contract.
Other proposals will cost money, and the plan says they will only happen when funding is available.
Those proposals including building a mountain biking skills park with multiple levels of difficulty, a series of mountain biking trails and a challenge course at the former pool site.
The challenge course would include mid-air elements, such as a swinging balance beam.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the plan Tuesday by saying he wanted the park to provide recreation for the next generation.
“Generations of New Yorkers and their families have enjoyed everything the park has to offer. With these improvements, we are making sure future generations can do the same,” he said.