Saratoga Spa State Park will see a nearly $1.8 million investment and a new visitors’ center will be built at John Boyd Thacher Park in Albany County as part of statewide park improvements, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday.
In all, Capital Region state parks will receive $9.5 million in funding for improvements this year, out of $90 million for capital work included in the 2014-2015 state budget adopted in late March.
“New York is proud to have the nation’s oldest state park system, and we will continue to do all that we can to preserve and guard these natural resources so that they can be enjoyed for generations to come,” Cuomo said in announcing the projects.
State money will also pay to replace a Fort Plain pedestrian bridge destroyed by flooding last year and fund a bike trail extension in Montgomery County.
This is the third year of major capital spending on the park system, which for many years has suffered from deterioration of facilities. Most of the $265 million spent to date has come from the New York Works program.
The system managed by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation drew 60.1 million people in 2013, with Spa State Park seeing a record 2.9 million visitors, making it the fourth-most-visited state park in New York.
This year, there will be four upgrade projects done at Saratoga, according to information released by the governor and state parks officials.
Some $500,000 will be spent on improvements to the Victoria Pool area and $400,000 on bike paths.
“We’re expanding the biking/pedestrian paths in the areas of East-West Road and South Broadway; at the Victoria Pool, we are looking at various aesthetic improvements, pool deck repairs, roof repairs and improvements in the restaurant,” said Dan Keefe, a state parks spokesman.
There is also a $375,000 project to convert the existing Geyser Creek building into an environmental education building. Also, $500,000 will be spent on a new roof and other renovations at the Gideon Putnam Hotel and Conference Center.
New visitors’ center
Elsewhere in the Capital Region, the most expensive project is a $3.8 million visitors’ center at John Boyd Thacher Park in Voorheesville. The new building would be in the picnic area near the popular Indian Ladder Trail, to take advantage of the long views from the top of the Helderberg escarpment, parks officials said.
The visitors’ center, which will also receive some private funding, will include exhibits, multipurpose meeting spaces and visitor-orientation services, Cuomo’s office said. Construction will start this fall and the building is scheduled to open in the fall of 2015.
There will also be two projects at Peebles Island State Park in Waterford, located at the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson rivers. They include $1.1 million to continue stabilizing and restoring a historic bleachery in the park’s old industrial complex, and $675,000 to rehabilitate the deteriorating South Bridge access from Cohoes, and to construct a new water line from Cohoes to the island.
In the Mohawk Valley, funded projects include $500,000 to replace the Otsquago Creek Bridge in Fort Plain, which was destroyed during the flooding last June. The bridge carried the Hudson-Mohawk bike trail across the creek.
There is also $245,000 toward constructing a 4.6-mile extension of the bike trail between Amsterdam and Pattersonville, as a match for nearly $1 million in federal funds. The project will close most of a six-mile gap in the existing bike trail that runs 365 miles along the historic Erie Canal between Buffalo and Albany.
Elsewhere, there is money to continue a $50 million restoration at Niagara Falls State Park; to start a five-year, $65 million restoration of Jones Beach State Park on Long Island; and $2 million for a nature center at Letchworth State Park in Livingston County, where the gorge is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East.” Watkins Glen State Park is receiving $5 million to redevelop its two main entrances.
State officials say the investment in improved parks will help connect people to nature and promote tourism and recreation. A recent study found the state’s 179 parks and 35 historic sites generate $1.9 billion annually in economic activity.