I would like to start by thanking the members for your continued support during a challenging year. A year filled with varying pandemic restrictions, which unfortunately resulted in reduced or eliminated programs. The Board faced some challenges and is stronger because of them and now are set for a new year of activities with several new Board members.
Among other things, The Friends spent time this year administering the Parks & Trails New York (PTNY) capacity building and organizational effectiveness grant from 2020 to strengthen the Board and to increase our visibility and marketing capabilities. The grant monies went to Chamber of Commerce membership, strategic planning meetings, expanded social media presence, yard signs that helped to illuminate Friends projects – like the gardens, dog park and tennis courts. The Friends closet is now restocked with letterhead, assorted banners, a tablecloth, business cards and rack cards. Look for our banners and rack cards at the Administration Building, Wired Coffee, the Saratoga Automobile Museum, among other places in Saratoga Springs. The Friends hosted the third Plein Air Art Show and Sale in July. The grant award also went to purchase collapsible tasting cups which will be offered to volunteers as a thank-you gift.
Board members were also busy writing another PTNY grant application for the restoration of the historic Coesa Spring and spring house. We were awarded $75,000 by PTNY and an additional $59,000 from the National Heritage Trust. The project has received some media coverage with an article in Saratoga Living and several interviews with Cassie Hudson from ABC 10 have brought more awareness and support for the Coesa project. The project is slated to begin in spring 2022 with a Friends volunteer workday at the Coesa area of the park, is tentatively planned for I Love My Park Day being held on Saturday, May 7, 2022. If you are interested in volunteering, please send an email to [email protected].
The Friends Ambassador program has also seen a huge step forward with the creation of an informational manual. Ambassadors serve as concierges for the park – greeting and offering direction and information to visitors. We look forward to our ambassadors welcoming Park guests in the coming spring. If you are interested in becoming an ambassador, please contact me at [email protected].
Friends Directors were busy with their committees, and you will find their updates below:
Spa Park Tennis – Chair Chip Friends:
In 2021, the Spa Park tennis courts saw more play with more variety of individuals visiting from far and near than ever. Our fundraising tournaments, as well as the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) matches were held this season, all to full capacity, and each with generating generous donations. The USTA representatives expressed appreciation for the Spa Park courts as an option for matches, in addition to other local indoor playing venues. The Spa Park tennis courts are an incredible asset to the Spa Park, the entire NY State Park system, and the Capital Region as a whole, as they provide numerous social opportunities, physical and emotional well-being for many people during these troubling times. The Spa Park Courts are in good condition and preparations are underway for the 2022 season, thanks to the many volunteer hours and donations received in 2021.
Spa Park History – Chair Linda Harvey:
A presentation in celebration of the 59th anniversary of the Coesa Spring and the future restoration project was held on June 27, 2021, by Board member Linda Harvey and Friends member, Frank Lombardo. The presentation included the history of the Coesa Spring and pump house, plans for the revitalizing and restoration of these features and the surrounding area, and walking tour via a section of historic rail routes to examine the existing conditions of the pump house and spring.
Spa Park Gardens – Chair Dan Lynch:
The Spa Park gardens that the Friends attend to were in the best condition that they have ever been. We had the right mix of sunlight, rainfall, and pleasant temperatures to make the colors on the flowering plants pop right out. The various volunteers that assisted had a great time working with each other, swapped gardening tips and mixed and mingled with the Spa Park visitors.
Spa Park patrons are always impressed with the gardens and ask for tips on how to make their own gardens more enjoyable. If you are interested in gardening at the Saratoga Spa State Park, please contact Dan Lynch via text at (518) 527-4547.
Spa Park Dog Park – Chair Eric Spaulding:
With the cold weather upon us and shifting of daylight hours the Spa Park’s Dog Park may have chilled out in the evening, but there are plenty of wagging tails during the day. As seen in all parks, the pandemic has brought more visitors to our Dog Park, and more people have brought dogs into their lives as well. We are so grateful for having an area dedicated to off-leash play for us to enjoy with our dogs. In the past year, our Dog Park cleanup days picked back up with over 35 volunteers chipping in. Over a couple weekends in autumn, volunteers filled holes, picked up trash along the road and parking lot, cut back branches and saplings along the fence line, collected leaves and other items. Our Dog Park committee has reformed after a pause during 2020 and volunteers who want to help make improvements at the Dog Park are eager for fundraising and helping with projects and events for the pooches. Our past Dog Park committee chairperson, Eric Spaulding, has received the support of Margaret Danison, Tricia Pleu and many other patrons to be on the committee, with Tricia taking lead in 2022 as chairperson of the Friends’ Dog Park Committee.
Spa Park Friends Communications – Chair Dustin Lanterman:
The Friends has steadily grown our social media presence over the course of the last year. We have taken considerable measures, by adding an Instagram page and a LinkedIn page and have increased presence on Facebook. These measures have assisted in organically increasing organization awareness, add members, increase donation, and tout our accomplishments and upcoming projects. We have also been much more consistent with our messaging, branding and use of our mass-email platform to better stay in contact with our members, community, and park partners.
The new Executive Committee for 2021-2022 is comprised of: Helene Brecker, President, Dustin Lanterman, Vice President, Peter Desmond, Treasurer and Linda Harvey, Secretary. We cannot thank our outgoing executive committee members enough for their tireless hard work and dedication to our organization.
Thank you for making 2021 a banner year for the Friends, despite the challenges. I look forward to another wonderful year with great people, incredible projects here in our beautiful Spa Park.
In order to continue our efforts of preservation, maintenance and support for the Saratoga Spa State Park, we ask for your generosity. You can make a difference! Renew your membership for 2022, become a first-time member of the Friends of Saratoga Spa State Park or make a donation.
Please visit friendsofsaratogaspastatepark.org or email [email protected] for more information, to donate or to become a member.
I would be remised if I didn’t mention:
That for each bag of Spa Park blend coffee sold at Wired Coffee (located in Roosevelt II), a donation of $1, per bag, is made to the Friends.
We wish you health and happiness for a bright 2022!
Helene Brecker, President