VOORHEESVILLE—As the construction on Thacher Park Center has progressed since it broke ground in early June, its fundraising campaign, led by the Open Space Institute (OSI), has also been gaining momentum. On Sept. 8, the campaign announced a $75,000 contribution from Thacher Park neighbor and local businessman Jeff Thomas and his family, bringing the total raised to nearly $650,000 of the $1 million goal—exhibit design and fabrication process are already well underway.
“Jeff Thomas has a long association with Thacher Park and a passion for helping the area’s youth,” said Erik Kulleseid, OSI Senior Vice President and Executive Director of its Alliance for New York State Parks Program. “We cannot thank him enough for his generous donation.”
“Thacher Park has been our family’s backyard for 26 years,” said Thomas. “I feel blessed to be a part of creating a beautiful place for individuals and families to be able to spend quality time enjoying and learning more about this wonderful jewel that God created for all of us.”
Thacher State Park, which sees more than 380,000 visitors every year, protects the Helderberg Escarpment, one of the richest fossil-bearing formations in the world. Called “the key to the geology of North America” by early paleontologists and geologists, the Helderbergs were an international destination for the study of ancient rocks and fossils in the 19th century. Thomas’ contribution will sponsor a set of geological exhibits in the main hall of the new center. Additional sponsorship opportunities at the new center include a planned fire pit, custom fossil-themed lighting features, overlook interpretive panels, and the fossil-adorned hearth.
Local fossils and rock specimens for the hearth have already been collected by a group of volunteers to ensure the park’s rich geological contribution is front and center. According to the campaign, the entire project has been marked by strong support from geological enthusiasts and scientists alike, who are ensuring that regional rocks and fossils will become a permanent part of the Capital District’s “foremost exhibit devoted to the region’s geology and historical importance to the advancement of geological study.”
The campaign is working with a panel of regional academic geologists, led by Charles Ver Straeten, NY State Museum/Geological Survey, to ensure the exhibits are engaging and relevant to all ages and representative of the park’s geological importance. The specimens for the hearth were largely collected by Ver Straeten and his team. Working with Paul Griggs, president and principal geologist at Griggs-Lang Consulting Geologists, Inc., the group received permission from Paul Bascomb of Cobleskill Stone Products to comb through tens of thousands of rocks to select specimens with compelling geological and paleontological stories.
“The rocks and fossils, to be used as accents within the park center’s centerpiece hearth and within the building’s groundbreaking geology exhibits, will make Thacher Park Center a premier civic space in the Capital District and a destination for families, school groups, adults and fossil enthusiasts,” said Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey.
“It’s exciting to see Thacher Park neighbors stepping up to show their affection for the Capital District’s great natural and recreational treasure,” said Heather Mabee, Chair of both the Thacher Park Campaign Committee and the Saratoga-Capital Region State Park Commission. “Excitement is growing for the park gateway and we are delighted by the level of community support the campaign has garnered.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and OSI announced plans for the new Thacher Park Center in June 2015. A signature project in the Governor’s NY Parks 2020 Plan to revitalize and transform the state park system, it is being funded through a combination of OSI’s private fundraising campaign and public funds.
As the fundraising campaign—led by OSI in partnership with the Natural Heritage Trust and the Saratoga-Capital District Regional Commission—has progressed, the Thacher Park Center has received a $220,000 matching grant through the Capital Region Economic Development Council and raised almost $430,000 in private dollars including donations from TrustCo Bank, Stewart’s Shops, Times Union, M&T Bank, Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, Hoffman Car Wash and Jiffy Lube.
Additional opportunities to donate to the campaign include sponsoring benches, patio pavers or trees. All opportunities are available through the park center campaign’s website at www.thacherparkcenter.org.