Planning for the future of Thacher and Thompson's Lake State Parks

Indian Ladder trail view at Thacher State Park

As the draft plan notes: Thacher Park's "magnificent panorama has no parallel in the capital district."

The state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation is currently in the process of planning a bunch of upgrades for John Boyd Thacher and Thompson's Lake State Parks.

The draft plan is wide ranging, from relatively straightforward and much-needed stuff (like new bathrooms) to a redesign of the some of the park's most-used areas. Also part of the proposed plan: officially combining Thacher and Thompson's Lake into one park. A lot of the changes wouldn't happen overnight -- the plan's timeline could extend as long as 15 years. And, of course, everything is subject to the availability of funding.

There's a public hearing on the proposed master plan for the parks this Thursday (August 1) at the New Scotland town hall at 7 pm.

The planning docs are posted online. We read them through them this afternoon and pulled a few quick-scan highlights.

As mentioned, the following are just some highlights with some excerpts. Here's the full draft plan pdf -- it includes information on potential timelines and how the projects are prioritized. It's worth a look if you're interested in the future of the parks. (It doesn't take too long to read through the whole thing). And it includes some interesting bonus facts (example: Thompson's Lake was formed by a sink hole).

Merge John Boyd Thacher and Thompson's Lake State Parks
"The park will be called John Boyd Thacher State Park and the current camping area at Thompson's Lake State Park will be designated as the John Boyd Thacher State Park Campground."

thacher state park draft plan visitors center rendering
Rendering of the proposed visitors center.

Build a New Visitor Center/Park Office/Park Museum
The new center would be at the Indian Ladder picnic area. It would include park offices, meeting rooms, exhibits, rental spaces for functions, bathrooms and other amenities.

New bathrooms
Er, we mean comfort stations. "The existing comfort stations are at the end of their design lives, and are difficult to maintain. The new comfort stations will be ADA-accessible and built with durable materials."

Re-design the main area - "The Meadow" for recreation
A complete re-design of the site where the (fondly-remembered) pool once was. (A new pool is not in the plan.) The design includes new grassy space, a basketball court, and a "challenge course" on the site of the old pool:

This will include publicly accessible challenge elements such as ropes, low cables, and obstacles strung between or on poles. Equipment examples may include: swinging balance beam, triangle traverse, rope bridges and tire swings. This course is meant to test physical strength, stamina, agility, balance, and flexibility. The course also invites participants to confront their fears in a controlled situation. The course will be managed and operated by park personnel who will receive training from professional challenge course instructors.

thacher state park draft plan pool area redesign
Proposed re-design of the area was the pool was.

Implement a rock climbing program
"Rock climbing will be opened at the park in selected areas. The activity will be by permit and will be managed by the park in cooperation with a locally managed not-for-profit rock climbing group. Details of this activity, including specific areas open to climbing, will be developed in a Climbing Management plan."

Solicit proposals from concessionaires to develop a high ropes adventure course in the park
The location for this facility isn't settled in the plan. But it would be a "high ropes course with multi-level challenges and obstacles" run by an outside company.

Install new Mountain Biking Skills Park and Trails
"The concept would be to design and install a 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. Mountain biking groups would be encouraged to cooperate in the design and maintenance of this area."

Expand the Thompson's Lake Beach.
Add about 1350 square feet to the beach area.

Re-design Glenn Doone Picnic area
The park's most popular picnic area gets a redesign, with updated bathrooms and concession areas and a new playground.

A park-wide rehabilitation of trails that would extend some routes, close some remnants, and provide better signage. It would also look at a potential bike path between connecting Thacher and Thompson's Lake.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Public comments for Thacher Park, Thompson's Lake
+ Thacher Park's namesake
+ The mystery at Hang Glider Cliff
+ Hiking the Indian Ladder Trail

draft plan images: NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation


Love the idea of rock climbing and mountain biking.

The visitor's center is a complete waste of money.

It's about time they let people do something other than hike and ski in this awesome park. I'm super excited to check out the climbing so nearby, and really glad that the parks committee was so wiling to work with the community to put these activities in place.

just give us back a pool

Rock Climbing area would be awesome...especially considering the views!!! I hope its a good mix of Sport, Traditional, and Top Rope climbing.

Tell it Lucas! The visitor's center is a complete waste of money.

How about a disc golf course? The local players club has quite a bit of experience with design, installation and upkeep!

I would think that between the town's of Guilderland and Bethlehem and the city of Albany's public pools, and a general increase in at home pools (compared to when the TSP pool opened in the 50's), that the need / demand for a pool at Thacher could no longer be met. Why waste the money on a pool that won't be used?

why not add a small "water splash" area ,,,that would attract families, offer a place to "cool off", no lifeguard required. low maintenance

Does anyone know where the Tory cave actually is? I see the end of the Tory Cave Trail on the picture above.

No no, dont make it commercial please. It's beautiful as it is. Why do we want to eke money out of everything? Combining the parks is fine, but dont add golf and splash area or whatever.

Anonymous -- for those of us who don't live in towns that have pools, the State Parks are our only summer swimming opportunities.

I think there's value in these new "splash" areas that are going up all over the place, but they don't teach people to swim, and they aren't exercise.

I live in a town with a nice town pool. I like it and I'm glad my town offers it. But I love the idea of bringing the pool back to Thacher Park. When we were kids, you could spend a whole day at Thacher Park - hiking, playing on the playgrounds, cooking out, and swimming. Now when we're looking to do these things with the family, we end up driving somewhere that offers swimming. We still spend time in Thacher Park, but nearly as much as we would if they had a pool.

Question about combining the two parks - if I pay to park and hike the trails, am I free to drive over to Thompson Lake afterward for a swim w/o paying a separate fee?

Since you can swim at Thompson's Lake, and they are combining the parks, maybe that's why they didn't see the need for a swimming pool.

The challenge course intrigues me. It seems like it's inspired by the newer "Warrior Dash" type races, and people wanting to practice for those. I wonder how many years interest in that will be sustained to support this, especially since it requires a staff member to supervise it. I also wonder what hours they're thinking of for this.

Lake swimming is nice, but there's no substitute for a good swimming pool, with diving boards, water slides, shallow and deep ends, and maybe even a nice fountain in the middle (like the old Mid City pool had). Thacher Park Pool didn't have all these, but it was still a darn nice pool, and I spent many happy hours there as a teenager. It was also a good place for college kids to work in the summer as lifeguards or at the snack bar there.

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