Indian Ladder Trail to be cleared up, re-opened

The Enterprise – Michael Koff

The Indian Ladder Trail at John John Boyd Thacher State Park has been closed since last July. Last week, it was announced that work would soon begin to clean up the trail, a process that is expected to take four to six weeks.

NEW SCOTLAND – Loose rock and debris will be removed from slopes along the Indian Ladder Trail, the central attraction at John Boyd Thacher State Park, so that the trail can re-open.

The historic trail has been closed since last year, when Nancy Ladd-Butz was struck, and subsequently paralyzed, by a falling rock while walking the trail on July 2, 2017.

The clean-up process is expected to take about four to six weeks, according to the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.

Improving the trail system at the park was a focal point of the 2013 Final Master Plan.

This week, Alane Ball Chinian, the director of the Saratoga-Capital District Region for the state parks department, updated The Enterprise on the progress of the master plan.

The plan’s vision statement said: “John Boyd Thacher and Thompson’s Lake State Parks will merge into one cohesive park, providing a wide range of complimentary recreational amenities including hiking, swimming, climbing, camping, picnicking and educational programming. The Park will also grow as a well-known and appealing destination for exploration, protection, interpretation and education of the public about the geologic, natural, scenic and historic
resources of the Helderberg Escarpment.”

Five years into a 10- to 15-year process, Ball Chinian said that she was very happy with the progress that has taken place so far, and, highlighting a couple, said: “The visitor center was a hugely symbolic as well as functional statement when it was completed; the park had never had an indoor space where people could gather. Just by putting a roof over a large place has been great. People can gather, have events, and learn about the park.”

She added that the opening of the escarpment to recreational climbing has also been a big deal.

Ball Chinian said that number of projects were completely quickly after the master plan was approved. The removal of Buckthorn, an invasive species, along the trail of the escarpment was an extensive project because a machine had to be brought in that could reach over the cliff to cut and trim trees. This improved the viewshed, she said.

Implementing a plan to protect rare animals and plant species was completed as well.

Ball Chinian said that when the park extended the trail for the rock climbing program, it wanted to make sure that the bats that reside in Hailes Cave were undisturbed. So, the park installed a gate that allows the bats in but not people.

Also, during the development of the park’s climbing program, surveyors found a rare type of fern that grows only on limestone cliffs, like the ones at Thacher Park.

The Wildplay adventure course, she said, opened last summer. Suspended 40 feet above the ground, it’s an obstacle course with log ladders, ziplines, cargo nets, rope swings, tightropes, swinging logs, and wobbly bridges.

A mountain-bike skills course also opened last summer, Ball Chinian said.

What happens next

Practical and functional could describe some of the next projects to be completed.

Ball Chinian said that the park is replacing its primary electrical service. “That it is expensive and is not something the public sees, but is also very important,” she said.

Once the campground at Thompson’s Lake gets its own septic system, Ball Chinian said, the park can decommission the wastewater treatment plant.

Nearly every bathroom in the park has been upgraded, she said. Along with the upgrade, each of those “comfort stations” is put on a septic system. Ball Chinian said that, when the water and sewer lines were installed in the 1940s and ’50s, there was a desire to build huge infrastructure, and, now the park is trying to “right-size and downsize” that infrastructure.

A new visitor contact booth and expansion of the beach area are still on the to-do list for Thompson’s Lake as well.

More New Scotland News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.