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Former Mount McGregor prison land to be part of state park

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Former Mount McGregor prison land to be part of state park

Some 750 acres around the former Mount McGregor Correctional Facility will become state parkland, wh
Former Mount McGregor prison land to be part of state park
An aerial view of Mount McGregor correctional facility campus, courtesy of the New York state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Some 750 acres around the former Mount McGregor Correctional Facility will become state parkland, while redevelopment proposals will be sought for the former prison grounds, state officials announced Tuesday.

The forested acres on the mountain will be added to Moreau Lake State Park, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said. It will include the Grant Cottage State Historic Site, which was on the prison grounds.

The former medium security prison closed in July 2014, with the loss of about 300 jobs. State officials have been discussing how to dispose of it, with a general sentiment that the forested lands outside the prison would be added to the park.

“I’m thrilled that New York state will open these 750 acres of beautiful forested land to the public for outdoor recreation,” said state Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. “Adding this land to the park will greatly expand the recreational opportunities in the region, preserve open space in fast-growing Saratoga County and ensure access to the Grant Cottage State Historic Site.”

The prison property, located on a mountain where the towns of Corinth, Wilton and Moreau converge, includes forests and wetlands and the shores of Lake Bonita, a scenic and undeveloped lake, parks officials said.

“Our board has been very supportive of creating more parkland and trails,” said Moreau town Supervisor Preston Jenkins, Jr. “We’re very happy the land will be used for expanding Moreau Lake State Park.”

The land includes a key segment of a planned long-distance Palmertown Ridge Trail that could eventually connect Saratoga Springs to Moreau Lake, state and local officials said.

The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will undertake a public planning effort in coming months, including taking input on new hiking trails and access to Lake Bonita.

The reuse of the full 1,025-acre former prison property — where a luxury hotel and later a tuberculosis sanitarium previously stood — is being coordinated by Empire State Development and the Office of General Services.

“The transfer of hundreds of acres of land to Moreau Lake State Park will no doubt draw visitors and help boost the tourism economy in Saratoga County, while offering more open space for residents to enjoy outdoor recreational activities,” said Empire State Development President Howard Zemsky.

At the same time, Empire State Development announced it will issue a request for proposals for the purchase and redevelopment of about 325 acres at the prison itself.

The property is situated at an elevation of 1,300 feet atop Mount McGregor, with sweeping views of the upper Hudson Valley, Vermont’s Green Mountains and even the Berkshires, economic development officials said. The complex includes more than 100 structures totaling approximately 550,000 square feet. It has been determined to be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The redevelopment request for proposals is available on ESD’s website at esd.ny.gov/CorporateInformation/RFPs.html. Responses are due Tuesday, July 7. According to the RFP, redevelopment plans should maximize the economic benefit to the three towns, Saratoga County and the state.

“We have worked closely with local and community stakeholders to issue an RFP that will provide the opportunity to generate new employment and private investment in Saratoga County,” Zemsky said in a statement.

Ideas mentioned for the property have included an educational facility or medical/rehabilation center.

“This is a very desirable site that should bring lots of interest. There are many potential reuses for the property,” said Wilton town Supervisor Arthur Johnson. “I especially look forward to replacing the many jobs lost with the closure.”

Moreau Lake State Park is a 4,531-acre park that attracts almost 400,000 people each year. In recent years the park has become a popular destination for bald eagle watching in the cold winter months, when eagles winter along the shores of Moreau Lake or along the Hudson River, which runs along the west side of the park property.

The Grant Cottage State Historic Site is where President Ulysses S. Grant died in July 1885, just days after finishing what would become a best-selling memoir of the Civil War, in which he was the Union’s commanding general.

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