A master plan for Thacher State Park

Indian Ladder trail view at Thacher State Park

"This magnificent panorama has no parallel in the capital district."

The Cuomo admin released the final master plan for John Boyd Thacher and Thompson's Lake State Parks this week. The plan, which follows a draft plan from earlier this year, is like a road map for the future direction of the parks, identifying new uses and facility upgrades along with a general sense of how those developments are prioritized.

A quick scan of the highlights are after the jump. They include: a merger of the two parks, a redesigned main park area, rock climbing, cave access, mountain biking, expanded beach area, and new bathrooms.

The following are just some of the highlights from the master plan (pdf). We've include the priority category for each item (where possible), which is a rough estimation of the order in which the state parks office plans to take up each project. But see the note the at the bottom about that.


Merging Thacher and Thompson's Lake State Parks
Thacher and Thompson's Lake are located very close to each other, so the master plan proposes merging them into one park under the name "John Boyd Thacher State Park." The campground at Thompson's Lake would become "The Thompson's Lake Campground at John Boyd Thacher State Park."

thacher state park draft plan pool area redesign
Proposed re-design of "The Meadow," the area in which the pool was located.

Redesign "The Meadow"
The central area of the Thacher Park -- "The Meadow," where the swimming pool was once located -- is tagged for a makeover. The biggest change: a new "challenge course" at the former pool site:

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.

Priority levels: 2 (redesign for pool area) and 3 (construct the challenge course)

A rock climbing program
The plan proposes opening specific areas of the park to rock climbing:

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. Areas to be considered for climbing will be assessed for three major factors: Endangered Species, Accessibility, Rock face stability.

The plan also mentions the possibility of allowing ice climbing eventually. Priority level: 1

A high ropes course
The plan calls for getting proposals from companies to run a high ropes course -- "with multi-level challenges and obstacles" -- at one of the current picnic areas. Priority level: 1 (issue request for proposals)

Redesign Glenn Doone picnic area
The Glenn Doone picnic area is the Thacher Park's most popular picnic area, according to the plan. The proposed redesign includes:
+ Improving the view from the picnic pavilion and lawn area
+ Upgraded bathrooms
+ Rehabbed concession area and patio area
+ A new playground

Priority level: 2

Trail improvements
The plan proposes general improvements to trails in the park, along with developing the Tory Cave Trail and the Hailes Cave Trail, and developing a bike path between Thompson's Lake and Thacher Park. Here are more details and a map. Priority levels: 1 and 3 (depends on trail)

Mountain bike skills park
The plan proposes creating a mountain biking skills park:

This action will support this activity in the Park by creating an area specifically designed to attract cyclists who wish to enhance their mountain biking skills and others who wish to gain biking skills. 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.

Priority level: 1

The master plan points to eventually opening some of the caves in the park to guided tours:

The Park will allow authorized representatives of the Northeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. (NCC) to locate and map the caves in the Park. Once caves are mapped, a management plan will be written to formalize strategies for permitting guided cave exploration. There will be no general opening of the caves to the public for caving.

It also proposes building a gate -- with a gate for bats -- on Hailes Cave to allow bats access and to keep people out. (Hailes Cave is one of the sites where White Nose Syndrome has hit bat populations.) Priority level: 1 (bat gate)

Expand Thompson's Lake campground and beach
The plan proposes adding a new loop to the Thompson's Lake campground, primarily for tents. It also proposes extending the Thompson's Lake beach to cover another 1350 square feet. Priority levels: 2 (beach expansion) and 3 (campground expansion)

New visitor center/park office/park museum
The proposed new facility would include a welcome center, meeting rooms, exhibits, offices, rental space, bathrooms, and a gift shop. Priority level: 1

New bathrooms
Er, "comfort stations." The plan says the new bathrooms would be ADA accessible and easier to maintain. Priority levels: 1 and 3 (depends on spot)

When is this stuff going to happen?

Good question. The master plan notes it's a "vision for capital improvements and operational enhancements to the Park for the next ten to fifteen years." And though it doesn't include detailed cost estimates, the state parks office figures they will cumulatively cost tens of millions of dollars. To that end:

The pace and sequencing of recommended actions will be determined by the availability of funding, which is a function of the size of OPRHP's annual capital budgets and the need to balance investments throughout the park system. The master plan will be reviewed annually to select projects that will be added to the Park's budget for implementation and to assess the progress of plan implementation.

And while the master plan tags each project with a priority ranking, it also notes those priorities could be shifted based on specific funding.

Master plan

The master plan pdf is embedded below. It's not that long, if you're interested in reading the whole thing. There are more related documents at the state parks website.

Thacher State Park Final Master Plan

Earlier on AOA

+ Planning for the future of Thacher and Thompson's Lake State Parks
+ Public comments for Thacher Park, Thompson's Lake
+ Thacher Park's namesake
+ The mystery at Hang Glider Cliff
+ Hiking the Indian Ladder Trail
+ Why is there a mayor on my oatmeal?

plan image: NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation


I would love to know how much was spent on drafting that Master Plan.


The entire master plan was written in house by OPRHP personnel. Only 10 copies were printed and sent to publicly accessible locations such as park offices and public libraries. The general public can access the plan online following the links above.

I looooove Thacher Park and am really glad to see it get some attention and much-needed funding.

All of the proposed changes sound great - I think the idea of a real visitor's center with geology / history exhibits is awesome. I've recently been to some of the larger national parks and those kind of exhibits can add a lot - especially for new visitors. It adds a whole level of appreciation for the natural features of the park. I'm sure there are plenty of people who visit Thacher for the view who may not think of how the escarpment came to be, or will not notice the many fossils visible at the picnic areas.

The only thing I'm slightly disappointed by is the cave management - but it's not a surprise, due to the white nose disease... My whole life I've wanted to see some of the caves in/around the park which are inaccessible. The plan addresses creating trails to the caves, but then says there will be no opening of the caves to the public. (It then goes onto say there are 'OPRHP sanctioned and permitted guided tour' exceptions, which in my mind, most likely means for research groups since they've already excluded 'the public'). We'll have to wait for more info on that...

what about funding schools and early intervention programs instead, or i guess you can just go back to destroying all the opportunities kids have in NY State, you seem to be GREAT at it Mr. Cuomo...

@Ben -- we all lose when we pit worthy public programs against each other for resources. There will always be reasons to not support public programs connected with the environment (parks, nature education) because there are more pressing social issues (the homeless, the hungry, the disabled....) Culture will always lose out in that kind of calculus, too.

Tax the rich. Make the corporations pay their fair share of taxes (or any taxes would be a start). Then there might be the resources to fund schools and parks adequately.

I'm thrilled for a much needed make-over to Thatcher Park. I grew up going swimming/picnicking/walking the escarpment and I now bring my children to the park when we visit my Dad. I look forward to all the noted changes and applaud New York for making Thatcher Park a better place.

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