CARS HOMES JOBS

State mulls 2-park merger

Combination eyed at Helderbergs

Sunday, August 4, 2013
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— Under a proposed state plan, two popular Albany County state parks, John Boyd Thacher and Thompson’s Lake, would merge and become one park.

The plan, released late last month by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, contains a number of recommendations, including:

u Improve the trail system by creating more trail destinations, more views and adding interpretative signs.

u Build a new welcome center and new bathrooms.

u Seek private investment to build a high-ropes adventure course, develop a grassy open space for recreation, strolling and events, and build a new basketball court.

u Improve picnic facilities.

u Protect rare and endangered plants and animals.

Thacher and Thompson’s Lake are about four miles apart, in the rural hilltowns of Albany County. One of Thacher’s highlights is the Indian Ladder trail, which features stunning views from the steep cliff known as the Helderberg Escarpment and an impressive waterfall. Thompson’s Lake provides 140 tent/trailer sites and a small sandy beach and boat launch.

The plan also calls for the creation of a rock-climbing program, and a 4.6-mile bike path that would connect Thacher and Thompson’s Lake, and a mountain biking skills park that “will provide technical facilities that pose challenges in a graduated level of difficulty and a series of looped trails where riders can practice their skills.”

Another recommendation would expand the Thompson’s Lake camping area by creating a new camping loop with smaller campsites designed for tent camping. The beach at Thompson’s Lake would also be expanded.

Dan Keefe, a spokesman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said the state is updating or creating master plans for every state park, and the proposed plan for Thacher and Thompson’s Lake is part of that ongoing process. The goal, he said, is to “enhance visitor’s experience and improve public enjoyment of the parks.”

The parks currently share a manager, Keefe said. Unifying the parks will “encourage people at the campground to use the Indian Ladder trail at Thacher, or remind people who are picnicking at Thacher that there’s a beach at Thompson’s Lake,” he said.

Laura DiBetta, director of the parks advocacy group Parks & Trails New York, said that the plan does a good job of prioritizing the protection of natural resources and enhancement of trails.

She said Parks & Trails would like to see the state consider acquiring new land abutting Thacher and Thompson’s Lake, should the opportunity arise, and take steps to ensure that new recreational features, such as a high-ropes course, do not have a negative impact on the parks.

“We think the state moving forward and creating plans for the parks is a worthwhile cause,” DiBetta said.

The public comment period on the state’s draft master plan and draft environmental impact statement will end on Aug. 23.

 
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