New Thacher visitors’ center draws crowd

The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider

Room with a view: A man uses binoculars to take in the overlook at John Boyd Thacher State Park from the balcony of the new Thacher visitor’s center.

A building now sits at the overlook at John Boyd Thacher State Park. Angular and modern, the visitors’ center was swarmed by people last Thursday when it was officially opened to the public.

“Today is the day we hand this over to you,” said Alane Ball-Chinian, director of the Saratoga-Capital District region of New York State Department of Parks and Recreation, to the audience, of the new center.

Fundraising began in 2015, but the new center had been proposed in the park’s 2013 master plan. Ground was broken in June 2015, with construction of the 4.3 million center starting in March 2016.

Many of the speeches touched on the fact that in 2010 under Governor David Paterson’s administration, it was rumored the 2,500-acres park would close.

“Just a few years ago it was an area that was being talked about closing or cutting,” said state Senator George Amedore.

State parks Commissioner Rose Harvey described meeting Governor Andrew Cuomo and his adamancy not to close any state parks.

“He wants more actions; he wants more programs,” she said.

Those present included politicians and government officials, as well as donors and local organization heads such as the Friends of Thacher Park.

Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy spoke of the opportunity the park provides to youth in the city to spend time in nature, citing his own experience as a child in Albany, visiting the Helderberg park.

Inside the 8,240-square-foot center are new opportunities for children, such as a manufactured cave where they can learn about the park’s rich fossil history. The center also has artwork and exhibits about park history — both geological and cultural history. The center also features a fireplace built of fossil-bearing stone from the escarpment; it is meant to be a year-round destination.

Outside the center is a platform made up of bricks marked with names donors to the center. The park, which features miles of hiking and biking trails as well as playgrounds and picnic areas, will soon offer rock-climbing and an aerial-adventure course. The new center is meant to educate and inform the more than 300,000 annual visitors.

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