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Little Troy Park in jeopardy of closing

Little Troy Park in jeopardy of closing

More than 60-year-old Charlton park could close if members don't join
Little Troy Park in jeopardy of closing
Nina Harrington, 4, of Charlton, balances on her father Dennis’ knees at Little Troy Park Tuesday.
Photographer: Erica Miller

CHARLTON — Little Troy Park has provided summer recreational opportunities for more than 60 years, but if volunteers don't step up to help keep the swim area going, it could soon be a thing of the past. 

The large natural pond has offered residents a sand beach, playground, picnic tables and grills off Old Stage Road from Memorial Day to Labor Day since 1957. 

Four volunteers now oversee everything from maintenance to the hiring and scheduling of lifeguards for the not-for-profit club, which is not a town-owned property. 

Board members Ginny Parsons of Clifton Park and Teddi Smith of Charlton, both in their 70s, worry that if no one new steps up to help run Little Troy Park, it won't be around much longer. 

"We always hoped that every family would help to get the park ready to open every year, but people are really busy, and this park isn't on their mind in April," Smith said. "We need to figure out how we're going to do this moving forward."

Smith added that, while people who aren't members often contribute to keeping the park running by mowing the lawn and donating sand, more people need to step up. 

"You know how in the spring your yard is full of sticks and leaves, well this is worse," she said of Little Troy Park. "We need help raking leaves and pumping the water into the pond. 

"It's a huge challenge."

Parsons said the board begins meeting in January to plan the upcoming summer season and then meets informally throughout the summer before its last meeting in October. 

There are around 50 members who pay membership fees that range from $140 for 10 visits to $390 for families. 

Swim lessons are also available from June 26 to Aug. 3, at a cost of $60 per child, with a $180 maximum per family. Approximately 30 children take advantage of those lessons each summer. 

Parsons said the funds raised from swim lessons and membership go directly toward paying the lifeguards. This season, there are six lifeguards, including two who teach swim lessons. 

"Membership rates have stayed the same for the last few years, but they'll likely increase next year with minimum wage increasing," she said. "But we try to keep them as low as possible."

The minimum wage in upstate New York began increasing last year and will continue to go up each year on Dec. 31 by 70 cents until 2020, when it will become $12.50 an hour. 

Lisa Lynch, of Amsterdam, found out about Little Troy Park from friends five years ago and has been visiting with her four children ever since. 

"The swim lessons are great, and classes are small," she said. "At other swim programs, kids spend more time on the wall waiting for their turn."

The Town of Clifton Park's group-based, learn-to-swim program had nearly 700 children signed up this summer. 

Lynch said she regularly volunteers to help keep the park clean and running smoothly. 

"It's a small community, so people should put in their fair share or it won't be here," she said. "I hope it stays open."

Stephanie Holley of Ballston Lake has decided to serve as the park's co-president next year. 

Holley began visiting Little Troy Park nearly 40 years ago with her children and now brings her grandchildren to swim. 

"It was such a positive experience for my kids growing up," she said. "It's where they learned to swim and formed friendships.

"Today, it gets kids outside and unplugged."

Holley said the park used to be a "mecca for teachers," because they had summers off. 

"So many people don't have the summers off any more and both parents are working," she said. "It's made it more difficult for people to come."

In response to the change in family dynamics, the park began offering mini-memberships, which include 10 visits over the course of the season, in an effort to attract more members. 

"I'd like for more people to enjoy it," Parsons said. "I want kids to learn to love the water."

Moving forward, Smith and Parsons hope membership increases and board positions start to fill up. 

"We'll try to keep it going," Smith said. "But we want to introduce new people to the board, so they'll have help from us."

Parsons said, "We need others to learn the positions, because we're limited to how long we can do this."

For more information on Little Troy Park, visit www.littletroypark.org. 

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