Thacher Park Opens Visitor Center

May 5, 2017

John Boyd Thacher State Park has been a Capital Region destination for decades. Now, the historic site with gorgeous views and extensive nature trails has a new visitors center.

The park sits on the Heldeberg escarpment, overlooking the city of Albany and much of the Capital Region.   New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey says the new $4 million center, located at the trailhead for the storied Indian Ladder footpath, takes the 20th century park and makes it a 21st century park:   "Thacher State Park and now Thacher Park Center is a signature project of Governor's New York 2020. And we have actually will have invested $10 Million into Thacher State Park."

Harvey views the new building as "the identity of Thacher Park."   "And when Governor Martin Glynn dedicated Thacher Park in 1914, he predicted here, in future years, will come people in search of recreation, students in quest of historical inspiration and geologists to study one of the oldest geological formations in the world. History, happiness and science, all meet in this very spot. And he was right."

Harvey says the facility is already booked through September for weddings, reunions and family events. She lauded the interpretative designs and displays.   "They're gonna give us context, they're gonna give us some history, they're gonna give us some perspective on the nature and the beauty and the geology that surrounds us. And it will be base camp for everyone!"

Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, Senator Neil Breslin and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara at the new Thacher Park Visitors Center.
Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

State Assemblywoman Pat Fahy sees the park as an important life-lesson for children.   "It is about building the future, making sure that they care about continuing  to take care of this earth and appreciating the environment and being good stewards going forward."

The center is also part museum, featuring interactive exhibits touching on Thacher Park's history and geology. Erik Kulleseid is with the Open Space Institute:   "Who knows if this park will even be here 450 million years from now? 450 million years ago we would be under a shallow sea, as I learned from our geologist. 200 million years ago we would have been 4 miles underground. Imagine that. And 2 million years ago we would be under a mile of ice. And those are not fake news! With the unveiling of this new visitors center and its orientation education components, this park becomes more welcoming and open for current and future generations of Capital District residents and their families."

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Credit flickr/AlbanyGroupArchive

Thacher had been in danger of being permanently closed in 2010. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new investment in the state park in June 2015.

The new building gives renewed hope to Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, who routinely rode the bus from Albany to Thacher Park during the summers of his youth.   "It was coming out here and being exposed to not just swimming all day, and I do miss the pool because there's generations of city kids now that don't have the opportunity to come up here on a bus, and to really not just explore the pool but to explore the environment, and I miss that. And I always hope that maybe someday [knocks on wooden podium] we can get the pool back, just sayin'. The center's great but I would like to expose kids to that element again because it really changed my whole outlook on the environment."

The group Friends of Thacher Park funds bus transportation to get kids to the grounds but it must be pre-arranged by schools, teachers or community groups.  More than 380,000 people visit the 2,500-acre park and its 2.8 miles of trails every year.