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Thacher Park enhancements plan finalized

Rock climbing, caving, mountain biking and more trails pitched for park

An overlook of John Boyd Thacher State Park in May 2013.

An overlook of John Boyd Thacher State Park in May 2013. Photo by John Purcell.

— The plan seeks to make the park “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.”

Immediate priorities are expanding the bird conservation area through both parks and creating a Natural Heritage Area that includes the Calcareous Cliff Community and land below the cliffs.

Capital infrastructure improvements are broken into three priority levels, and operational enhancements have two priority levels.

Priority 1 improvements include demolishing and repurposing material from the barn on Ketcham Road; adding four comfort stations throughout the park; viewshed restoration of Hailes Cave, Horseshoe and Indian Ladder trails; and several trail improvements.

Another first priority improvement is creating the Tory Cave Trail, which will extend north from Indian Ladder Trail and offer a view Hailes Cave opening. A bat gate will also be installed at the cave opening.

A key trail enhancement, which is also a first priority, involves creating a 4.6-mile bike path connecting the escarpment trails to Thompson’s Lake.

A mountain bike skills park will also be installed through cooperation area mountain bike groups. The skills course is planned to offer multiple levels of difficulty, along with a series of looped trails to practice skills.

“The trails and skills area will be a great recreational opportunity for riders of all ages throughout the Capital Region,” said Chris Morris, vice president of Saratoga Mountain Bike Association.

Rock climbing enthusiasts have also been praising the plan for opening portions of the Helderberg Escarpment to climbers.

“The Thacher Climbing Coalition is excited for the consideration and addition of climbing at Thacher State Park,” coalition member Gabriel Miani said in a statement. “We look forward to working with New York State Parks to establish this activity in a thoughtful, sustainable and responsible manner for the mutual benefit of the Park, the surrounding communities and the East Coast climbing community.”

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