VOORHEESVILLE, NY (May 5, 2017) —Officials, community leaders and park lovers joined together to celebrate the opening of a new Thacher Park Center. Launched with the help of a private fundraising campaign spearheaded by the Open Space Institute (OSI), the center provides for the first time a four-season park destination to better showcase this spectacular natural area and to serve as a launching point for exploring the 2,500-acre park in Albany County’s Helderbergs.
“The new Thacher Park Center will make this great Capital District park even greater,” said Erik Kulleseid, senior vice president of OSI and executive director of its Alliance for New York State Parks program. “With the goal of enhancing the overall visitor experience at Thacher, OSI was happy to take the lead in developing captivating exhibitory to highlight the park’s rich geological, natural and cultural legacy and encourage people to explore all Thacher has to offer.”
Over the past two decades, OSI’s land conservation efforts have added more than 1,200 acres to Thacher, more than doubling the park’s size. In the greater Helderberg region, OSI has also protected small family-owned farms and lands to protect habitat around the park. These conservation successes have expanded recreational opportunities and protected views and habitat throughout the landscape.
“Our two-year private fundraising effort maintains OSI’s longstanding commitment to Thacher,” Kulleseid continued. “We congratulate our partners at State Parks and thank the hundreds of businesses, families and individuals who joined us in supporting the wonderful place.”
“The new Thacher Park Center is a great example of how Governor Cuomo is improving and reinvigorating our state parks,” Commissioner Harvey said. “Generations of Capital Region residents have grown up with Thacher State Park as their playground and the new center will help build on these traditions, as countless new families hike the Indian Ladder Trail, gather together for special occasions, or warm up after a day of winter sports in the park. I am tremendously grateful for the support from Governor and all of our partners to make it happen.”
Located near the trailhead and picnic area for the popular Indian Ladder Trail, the 8,240-square-foot center includes:
- A breathtaking entrance hall, interactive exhibits, small theater and model bat cave, all highlighting the park’s history and fossil-rich geology;
- A 1,340-square-foot common room that can be reserved for community events and family gatherings;
- An outdoor observation deck and patio overlooking the escarpment where visitors can take in the park’s dramatic views;
- A well-appointed warming area featuring a fireplace faced with fossil-bearing stone from the escarpment;
- Two new stone and timber picnic pavilions;
- Park offices, public restrooms and a welcome information desk to help visitors explore the park’s expansive trail network and other features.
The center is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Campaign for the Thacher Park Center, spearheaded by OSI and chaired by the Saratoga-Capital Region Park Commission’s Heather Mabee, raised $800,000, including the sale of more than 150 commemorative pavers. The project also received a $220,000 Environmental Protection Fund grant.
Key campaign supporters include Lucy Waletzky, Jeff Thomas, Trustco Bank, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, George Hearst, M&T Bank Charitable Foundation, Albany Times Union, Stewart’s Shops, The Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, Northeastern Cave Conservancy, Bender Family Foundation, Carrie Hoffman, and Regional Park Commissioners Thomas Maggs, Barbara Glaser, Mark Ryan, and David Golub.
The campaign funded state-of-the-art exhibits that highlight the park’s unique geology and natural history, as well as stylish furniture made in New York State for common areas. Continuing sponsorships and sales of brick pavers and merchandise will support a sustaining endowment to maintain the quality of the facility.
The $4.3 million center is a signature project in the Governor’s NY Parks 2020 Plan to revitalize and transform the state park system. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York State is making a historic commitment to improving and expanding access to outdoor recreation. The NY Parks 2020 program is a multi-year commitment to leverage $900 million in private and public funding for State Parks from 2011 to 2020. The Governor's 2017-18 Executive Budget allocates $120 million toward this initiative.
The Thacher Visitor Center anchors several new improvements and activities underway in the park. Rock climbing is expected to start Memorial Day weekend, followed by a new aerial adventure course in July. A new playground area will be built adjacent to the visitor center this summer including a climbing wall and slide. A mountain biking skills park continues to expand. Improvements are slated for the Indian Ladder and trails throughout the park this year. Restroom buildings at the Hailes Cave and Paint Mine picnic areas are scheduled to be replaced.
Thacher Park, visited by more than 300,000 people every year, sits at the top of the Helderberg escarpment, one of the richest fossil-bearing formations in the world. The park features miles of hiking and biking trails, guided walks and interpretive programs, playgrounds, picnic areas, and swimming, camping and The Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center at Thompson’s Lake.