State Parks, Historic Sites to Receive $4.3M

Three Columbia County parks, including one with strong ties to Greene County, are in line to receive a total of $4.38 million in state funding for repairs and renovations.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that $110 million in capital funding has been set aside in the state’s 2020 budget to continue the NY Parks 2020 initiative aimed at revitalizing the state’s flagship parks, according to a statement from the governor.

Statewide, 47 parks and historic sites will receive funding for construction projects and systemwide improvements.

The Columbia County parks slated to receive funding are Lake Taghkanic State Park, Olana State Historic Site and Taconic State Park.

Joining Cuomo in the announcement were Senate Majority Leader Andrew Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

“State parks are central to New York’s thriving tourism economy and millions of New Yorkers turn to these world-class natural treasures each year for fun, exercise and community engagement,” Cuomo said. “This significant investment will help enhance and modernize our cherished state parks while promoting healthy outdoor recreation, preserving our environment and lifting up local economies.”

Lake Taghkanic State Park will receive a total of $575,000, including $225,000 to replace the park’s east water tower and $350,000 for improvements to the west-side septic pump station, as well as system improvements.

At Taconic State Park, $1,960,000 has been allocated for infrastructure repairs, including $1,600,000 for the shower house, comfort station and septic system in the northern section of the campground. The remaining $360,000 will be used to improve water treatment and distribution.

Olana State Historic Site will receive $1 million to relocate a temporary parking lot at the site’s farm complex and kitchen garden, and an additional $850,000 to replace an aging water storage tank.

Olana Partnership President Sean Sawyer said the funding will be used to improve an important historic site for Columbia County and beyond.

“We work jointly with the parks agency to restore and make Olana the best it can be for the public,” Sawyer said. “This is funding in the state budget through Gov. Cuomo’s initiatives, along with the parks commissioner and the region, to accomplish a major task at Olana.”

The water tower at Olana is in need of replacement to protect the site, Sawyer said.

“The water tower is vital — it will replace an aging and deteriorating water tower that provides fire protection for the house and its collection, which is a national treasure,” he said.

The second component of the renovation project at Olana would be the first step in restoring a little-known farm complex and a return to the site’s historic roots.

“We are working hand in hand with state parks to complete the restoration of Olana to bring it back to the full vision that Frederic Church had for it,” Sawyer said. “Part of that will be to bring back the historic farm at Olana, which occupied about a third of the property during Church’s lifetime. It has been unknown and invisible for the past 75 years, and for the entire time it has been a state historic site.”

State funding includes $1 million that will be used to replace a temporary parking lot that was installed roughly 10 years ago right next to the house’s kitchen garden.

“This temporary lot is finally getting removed and a permanent parking lot that will be much safer and better for visitors is being put down out of the historic area of the farm,” Sawyer said. “We have to do that before we can bring back the kitchen garden portion of the site, and we have public and private funds to do that.”

In Church’s time, the kitchen garden is where vegetables were grown to feed the family and staff.

“This is the first step to bringing agriculture back to Olana,” Sawyer said. “Agriculture was really an important part of how Frederic Church thought about the Hudson Valley and his place in it. It was about living in nature but also benefiting from the produce and productive agricultural lands.”

State Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-43, a member of Olana Partnership, said the funding will make some welcome improvements.

“Our state parks not only help to preserve the incredible scenic beauty of New York, but also provide recreation to New Yorkers,” Jordan said. “Visitors to our state parks help with tourism dollars in our local economies. Funding to Olana, a New York state historic site, is exciting. This historic and beautiful treasure is a public-private partnership. The non-profit Olana Partnership has been working hard to not only preserve Olana, but to expand upon what visitors, tourists, students and artists are able to experience at Fredric Church’s Olana.”

In the Capital Region, $9.7 million has been budgeted for repairs to seven parks.

In addition to the three parks in Columbia County, others in the Capital Region include Johnson Hall State Historic Site in Johnstown, John B. Thacher State Park in Voorheesville and Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs, along with regionwide paving improvements, according to the governor’s office.

The site renovations should have an impact that goes beyond the parks, said F. Michael Tucker, president and CEO of the Columbia Economic Development Corporation.

“State parks, historic sites and nature preserves play an important role in promoting economic development, particularly here in Columbia County, by enhancing the quality of life of local residents, attracting tourists and other visitors, providing seasonal and full-time jobs and an opportunity to purchase goods and services from local businesses,” he said.

More than half of the $4.3 million in state park funding for the Capital Region will come to Columbia County, Tucker said.

“The impact of state parks on our local economy is enormous in terms of the economic-multiplier effect throughout the county,” Tucker said.

Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, said the impact on the region could be significant.

“Our parks provide beloved space for outdoor enjoyment, but they are also important economic drivers to our region,” Barrett said. “Supporting our state parks and recreational spaces has always been a top priority for me, which is why I helped pass a budget that provides $110 million for critical park upgrades. This includes more than $4 million for Lake Taghkanic State Park, Olana State Historic Site and Taconic State Park. With this funding, we can help ensure Hudson Valley families and visitors have even more opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.”