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Another look at the planned Thacher State Park visitors center

thacher park visitors center rendering 2015-June 2 cropped

The visitors center will be located near the overlook.

The Cuomo admin announced the groundbreaking of the $3.8 million Thacher State Park visitors center today. Here are a few large-format renderings. A state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation spokesman tells us the project is planned to be ready in summer 2016.

Press release blurbage:

The center, to be set next to the trailhead and picnic area for the popular Indian Ladder Trail, will introduce visitors to new park features, including an expanded trail network, as well as new opportunities for biking, rock climbing, caving, environmental education and an new high-ropes adventure course. The activities are part of the plan announced by the Governor to reinvigorate the park.
The 8,240-square-foot Thacher Park Visitor Center will include:
+ a welcome information desk to help visitors explore the park's expansive trail network and other features;
+ a grand lobby and exhibit area to highlight the park's fossil-rich geological history;
+ a 1,340-square-foot multipurpose gathering space that can be reserved for special events such as weddings and family reunions;
+ public restrooms and park offices; and
+ an outdoor patio overlooking the escarpment where visitors can take in the park's dramatic views.

We didn't notice much that was new in the announcement -- it's mostly a reiteration of the plans already in place.

Dan Keefe, deputy public information officers for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, told us today that the new mountain biking skills course and expanded caving access are on track to be ready this summer. (Details on the planned ropes course are still being worked out with the contractor.)

One other thing: There are now specific details about the campaign to raise $1 million from private sources for exhibits and amenities at the new visitors center. The Open Space Institute is heading up the campaign -- and the website for it includes some additional details about the center (as well as how to donate).

images: NYS OPRHP


I'm come to Thacher to enjoy nature, not a building. Very disappointed that this money is being wasted on such a concept, rather than trail maintenance and expansion or even bringing back the pool.

Five years ago we didn't have enough money to even open the park, and I believe they threatened folks with trespassing charges if they entered any state park. Put the money in an account so that we are never in that situation again.

-- "a 1,340-square-foot multipurpose gathering space that can be reserved for special events such as weddings and family reunions;"

Because, what use is a state park if you can't profit from it?

I'm really surprised by the short-sightedness of the comments here. In building this center, Thacher will be able to host more events, leading to increased revenue to pay for things like park maintenance and amenities like the pool/playgrounds.

Specifically to KestrelHill's point, right now, Thacher tries to host events (again, to bring in revenue to support park operations), but people are reluctant to schedule events in a place that doesn't have all-season structures. Would you schedule a major event in a place where you might have to cancel because of inclement weather?

It's also important to remember that this is not the only money available for Thacher (and other parks like it). Organizations like the Friends of Thacher and Thompson's Lake State Parks, Open Space Institute, NYS Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation Department and the Nature Conservancy also provide funding for educational, recreational and capacity-building initiatives at the park.

Please try to take a long-term view on this: to secure the future of Thacher, they are making investments that may seem unconventional or unnecessary... if you don't have all the background information.

(And nope--I don't work for Thacher. I just work on behalf of nonprofits that are constantly second-guessed on capacity-building initiatives like this. Progress doesn't always look the way you expect it to, especially in the middle of the process.)

You know what Thatcher park could really use, a big government boondoggle building to balance out all of those trees and hiking trails. I can't seem to enjoy the view from the escarpment, or the natural beauty of the area without a 3 and half million dollar lobby/gathering space. Lord knows not enough people are at the park so maybe a museum dedicated to the area's rich fossil history will bring in waves of visitors.

On second thought maybe Andy Cuomo should keep all his brilliant ideas downstate where they belong.

SiobhanGK, I totally agree. If they do this right, this could be the boost Thacher Park needs. However, does the money made from this facility stay to finance this park or does it go into the fund for all the NYS Parks?

I'm on the fence on this one. On the one end we have a sort of urbanization of a natural park; on the other we have the need to raise revenue to maintain it, without increasing taxes. I'm glad I don't have to make those decisions. Maybe the folks involved with environmental issues could help us work through this one.

I think the visitor's center will be help people orient themselves to a large and confusing park. I have been to Thacher Park many times, and I have to admit, I don't really understand it. There are so many entrances and parking areas and picnic places (that are often reserved on weekends) that I have no idea where to go to hike the "expansive trail network" or to find a specific amenity.

Of course, let's expand the use of the park while doing nothing about improving/expanding the access roads. Great plan. Now thacher park will overcrowded too.

Pimpin' my park, because nature just doesn't cut it in NY?

There is already an all season structure. How many people have actually participated in a class at the existing structure? How many people have gone on tours? Maybe we need better communication, outreach, website, equipment, etc. Low cost.

The zip line project is a good example of something positive but poorly communicated. Once you cut through all the rumors and FIND the zip lines you realize it is nothing more than playground equipment. Nothing wrong with that for the young kids, but there is no clear way to actually get to the zip line playground. Overgrown or non existent access....no signs, etc.

The Town of New Scotland struck down...overwhelmingly....the construction of a new library building that would have expanded community space for educational programs. If the people do not want a NEW library building it means they do not see the value in the building itself. Does not mean they do not want investment in he library.

Can't wait for the new building to become the main eyesore due to poor maintenance and the beacon for what to expect throughout the park. Either way we lthe people lose on this one.

The nature center and the future of Thacher State Park were discussed during a 2012-2013 master planning effort--

A lot of time and effort (and public comment) went into the development of the plan and the future of the park.

This area used to be accessed by many people in the Capital District. Most days it was tough to get a picnic table. Now if you ask people who live in this area most have never even heard of it. This is an improvement to the area and will provide people a place to visit for years to come. It will be educational as well. There is already plans to bring back the bus from Albany to bring people to the area daily. In recent years the improved hiking trails have brought more people to the area to enjoy what the Thacher family donated to the people of the State. Go and visit the area and see what improvements have been made.

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