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Geology front and center at new Thacher Park Center

VOORHEESVILLE, NY (Sep. 8, 2016)—As the construction on Thacher Park Center progresses, the fundraising campaign, led by the Open Space Institute (OSI), is also gaining critical momentum. The campaign today announced a $75,000 contribution from devoted Thacher Park neighbor and local businessman Jeff Thomas and his family. Mr. Thomas’ gift brings the total raised to nearly $650,000 toward a $1 million goal, with the exhibit design and fabrication process well underway.

“Jeff Thomas has a long association with Thacher Park and a passion for helping the area's youth. We cannot thank him enough for his generous donation,” said Erik Kulleseid, OSI Senior Vice President and Executive Director of its Alliance for New York State Parks Program.

“Thacher Park has been our family's backyard for 26 years. I feel blessed to be a part of creating a beautiful place for individuals and families to be able to spend quality time enjoying and learning more about this wonderful jewel that God created for all of us,” said Thomas.

Mr. Thomas’ gift will sponsor a set of geological exhibits in the center’s main hall. Additional opportunities for sponsorship at the Thacher Park Center include a fire pit, custom fossil-themed lighting features, overlook interpretive panels, and the fossil-adorned hearth.

The local fossils and rock specimens for the hearth have been collected (see photos) by a group of volunteers to ensure the park’s rich geological contribution is front and center. Indeed the entire project has been marked by strong support from geological enthusiasts and scientists alike, who are ensuring the area’s rocks and fossils, will become a permanent part of the Capital District’s foremost exhibit devoted to the region’s geology and historical importance to the advancement of geological study.

“The rocks and fossils, to be used as accents within the park center’s centerpiece hearth and within the building’s groundbreaking geology exhibits, will make Thacher Park Center a premier civic space in the Capital District and a destination for families, school groups, adults and fossil enthusiasts,” said Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey.

“It’s exciting to see Thacher Park neighbors stepping up to show their affection for the Capital District’s great natural and recreational treasure,” said Heather Mabee, Chair of both the Thacher Park Campaign Committee and the Saratoga-Capital Region State Park Commission. “Excitement is growing for the park gateway and we are delighted by the level of community support the campaign has garnered.”

The campaign is working with a panel of regional academic geologists to ensure the exhibits are engaging and relevant to all ages and representative of the park’s geological importance. The panel is led by Charles Ver Straeten, NY State Museum/Geological Survey, and consists of: Alex Bartholomew, SUNY New Paltz; Thom Engel, Northeastern Cave Conservancy; Megan Fung, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI); John Garver, Union College; Mimi Katz, RPI; Krysia Kornecki, RPI; Heather Sloan, Lehman College at CUNY; Jacqueline Smith, College of St. Rose; Ed Stander, SUNY Cobleskill; and Laura Tedesco, Troy High School.

Through several trips, the specimens for the hearth were largely collected by Ver Straeten and his team. Working with Paul Griggs, president and principal geologist at Griggs-Lang Consulting Geologists, Inc., the group received permission from Paul Bascomb of Cobleskill Stone Products to comb through tens of thousands of rocks to select specimens with fascinating geological and paleontological stories.

“It is exciting to watch support and momentum growing for the new Thacher Park Center, a beloved escape for generations throughout the Capital Region,” Kulleseid said. “OSI is proud to support the Thacher Park Center, allowing new generations to enjoy this wonderful place for many years to come.”

For years, despite the popularity of Thacher—which welcomes more than 380,000 people every year—the park has operated without a central welcome center, while the Capital District has lacked public exhibits devoted to its own importance in the history of the study of geology.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and OSI announced plans for the new Thacher Park Center in June 2015. The center, a signature project in the Governor’s NY Parks 2020 Plan to revitalize and transform the state park system, is being funded through a combination of OSI’s private fundraising campaign and public funds.

As the campaign—led by OSI in partnership with the Natural Heritage Trust and the Saratoga-Capital District Regional Commission—has progressed, the Thacher Park Center has received a $220,000 matching grant through the Capital Region Economic Development Council and raised almost $430,000 in private dollars including donations from TrustCo Bank, Stewart’s Shops, Times Union, M&T Bank, Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, Hoffman Car Wash and Jiffy Lube.

Thacher State Park protects the Helderberg Escarpment, one of the richest fossil-bearing formations in the world. Called “the key to the geology of North America” by early paleontologists and geologists, in the 19th century the Helderbergs were an international destination for the study of ancient rocks and fossils.

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