Partnership raises park improvement funds
By Alison Rooney
The Canopus Lake Beach and Fahnestock Winter Park “campus” hub have not been renovated since initial construction in the 1970s, but maintain popularity as a multi-season destination for visitors and locals alike. After decades of use and enjoyment, the facility is undergoing a major facilities upgrade, and the first stage is nearing completion.
The work, funded by a public/private partnership, follows guidelines recommended in a comprehensive master plan authored in 2010. Phase one of the project includes the renovation of the two buildings — the bathhouse and the concessions building — which serve as the heart of the complex. Along with the redesign and updated, enhanced landscaping of the courtyard area surrounding the buildings, renovations are at a midpoint, with the bathhouse almost completed and the winter recreation area/café space up next. Phases two through four will begin with improvements to the beach and nearby recreational facilities and wind up with the development of multi-sport athletic fields and improvements to the parking area.
Fahnestock Memorial State Park was established in 1930 with a donation of about 2,400 acres made by Dr. Ernest Fahnestock in memory of his brother, Clarence, expressly for the development of a state park and a parkway. Through the late 1990s and early 2000s, additional land was added to the park to bring the current acreage to 14,082.
A high volume of activities take place within this acreage, from the popular cross-country ski trails to the heavily-reserved cabins which serve as a base for hiking, to myriad lake pursuits: swimming, fishing, ice-fishing, boating and more at Canopus Lake. Fahnestock currently receives 250,000 people each year, fed, in part by its links to the Appalachian Trail. Visitors travel from far and wide, with many coming up from New York City. Locals constitute a good portion of visitors as well. Paul Kuznia, director of the Taconic Outdoor Education Center, says the park is all about “unplugging and connecting people in different ways. Our visitors include hikers, fishermen, photographers — and this is a prime example of taking a park and putting it to year-round use. There are 20 kilometers of trails open when all are operating and there’s a strong contingent that comes up to ski – it’s a tourist attraction. We want to make this more of an amenity and local destination. In nearly 35 years there had been no major improvements to these buildings.
The overall goals of these renovations are to provide quality facilities with a consistent design aesthetic while utilizing sustainable/green building practices and respecting historic character. The first project, the remodeling and winterizing of the public bathhouse and lifeguard facility, reflects this goal. Design on this initial phase was done “in house” by the Taconic Region of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP), under the supervision of senior architect Patrick Kozakiewicz, who advocated for restoration and renovation of the existing 30-plus-year-old building.
“One of the best things we can do to be green is to reuse our existing buildings,” Kozakiewicz said. “It’s a good sustainable practice and makes the most sense in this case.”
On a tour of the almost-complete bathhouse building, Kozakiewicz pointed out many of the new features, including private toilet and shower facilities intended for family use and complete renovation of other areas designed for multiple patrons; the family rooms being a recent trend.
“Sun tunnel” skylights and supplemental windows have been added to provide healthy natural light while artificial light is achieved with the latest LED technology designed to last more than 20 years. The building has been fitted with a new and efficient heating and ventilation system exceeding stringent code requirements. Now there is a zoned heat system designed to be used year round during the ski season as needed. Hot water for showers and sinks is provided by an array of solar thermal panels.
In addition to bathing facilities, on the beach side of the bathhouse there is a new First Aid Center with lifeguard facilities. Just outside this area is an exterior shower pedestal, a convenience much appreciated by beach users who need to quickly rinse off and depart.
The concession area, café space and ski center, is slated for renovation next. The design for this facility will be by Sullivan Architects. Newly-created vestibules will help retain heat in the winter while also better define pedestrian circulation. Reorganizing interior spaces will increase the amount of space and storage for the booming cross-country ski, snowshoe, and tube rentals. A minor expansion of the building will give more space to the popular Acorn Café and the kitchen which serves it. Along with this, the courtyard area will be re-designed improving circulation and the overall patron experience. Stonewall seating and a fire pit will be the centerpiece of a naturally inspired and more functional outdoor space.
Beach improvements slated
After this work is completed, plans shift to the beach area, dredging and engineering so that the beach is naturalized and has more water retention, and improving swimming areas. Also noted in the master plan: “The beach will be made smaller and grass will be planted adjacent to the walkway and on both sides of the existing beach. The grass will be an alternative to the sand and will form a buffer to reduce erosion into the lake during rain events.”
A fully accessible fishing pier is to be installed, boat rentals will take place closer to the beach and the barbecue areas are to be moved. Grassy areas will be created, for non-sand activities. Features are to include beach volleyball, a new playground, an area for kayaking and a trail around the lake.
The projected work has taken into consideration the natural resources of the area and has been designed to respect and maintain species diversity. Katrina Shindledecker, president of the Friends of Fahnestock and Hudson Highlands State Parks, (FOFHH), the all-volunteer nonprofit group dedicated to preserving, protecting, and improving the two parks, said that in planning they were “trying to be sensitive to natural resources as well as recreational resources – it’s a matter of balance.”
The “Campaign to Revitalize Fahnestock State Park” is being funded through a public-private partnership led by the OPRHP, the Open Space Institute’s Alliance for New York State Parks program, the Taconic Regional Commission of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the FOFHH. To date, $825,000 in public and private funding, largely grants and donations, has been raised toward an initial $1.2 million goal.
Half of the money has been raised through private donations, while the remaining $400,000 was secured through a New York State Environmental Protection Fund grant awarded through Gov. Cuomo’s Hudson Valley Regional Economic Development Council. The final $375,000 is currently being sought, and donations can be made directly to a fund for this purpose.
“We’re realists but we’ve been fortunate to receive support from a variety of venues. As people look for recreational opportunities closer to home there is renewed interest in local assets, high quality ones appealing to the public,” said Eileen Larrabee of the OSI’s Alliance for New York State Parks.
Shindledecker of FOFHH added, “Campground and beach use have actually increased in recent years because many people aren’t taking big long-distance family vacations anymore. And then many of these park visitors head into Cold Spring afterwards and act as economic drivers. For me at the core is remembering to step back and focus on family and about what matters: making those memories for families. We want this place to be just that — a clean, safe and fun place where families can come to unplug and make great memories for generations to come.”