LATHAM, DELMAR – This fall, both the Colonie Mohawk River Park and the new Bethlehem Normans Kill Ravines Park will undergo transformations that will allow residents to better reconnect with nature and neighbors.
For almost 20 years, the Mohawk River State Park has offered locals a place to enjoy nature close to home. From the winding trails and riverfront views to the picturesque pond alongside a covered bridge, the park is a beautiful place to spend some time no matter the season.
It wasn’t always this way. The park hadn’t seen significant changes until 2018, with the addition of a new splash pad and kiddie pool next to the pool house. In 2022 and 2023, initiatives by Colonie Town Supervisor Peter Crummey focused on ridding the waterfront of 65 tons of invasive and overgrown water chestnuts, redoing the parking lots, improving the pools, and completely tearing up and installing new pickleball and tennis courts, which are currently in the process of being built. Now, he aims to move his focus back to the riverside.
“We want people to be able to come out here and fish, canoe, kayak, and do as they wish,” said Crummey. “We own the land, and we should maintain it [for future generations].”
To reestablish residents’ access to the river, the town plans to clear out the dead and overgrown plant life surrounding the Mohawk River Park waterfront – minus living trees – to make way for benches, a permanent dock near the boat launch, and perhaps even a miniature amphitheater for future events.
With these additions, park-goers will be able to stroll down the refreshed and meticulously groomed trails that lead out to the riverfront, where Crummey hopes visitors will be able to host cookouts, shows, gatherings, and enjoy time on the water with friends and families. He adds that once electricity is run down to the waterfront, the potential for future amenities will grow.
The Town of Colonie is making the renovations for the riverfront out of funds from the existing town budget, and Crummey said he does not expect the need for additional funding through a bond vote.
Not far from the river stands the former Newtonville Park Office, built in the 1850s. At one point, it housed the dynamite used to clear the way for the Albany-Schenectady rail line. Unfortunately, animals and nature seem to be creeping their way in, but Crummey said he hopes to be able to preserve it before it’s too late.
Through private and public cooperation, he believes the building can potentially be turned into an educational landmark along the path towards the covered bridge. In order to accomplish that, structural integrity testing must be done, and safety measures must be put in place within and along the side of the building, as it is flanked by a large pool of standing water.
Just 20 minutes away at 70 Wright Lane is the new Normans Kill Ravines Park, where visitors are welcomed into a landscape of forests, wetlands and ravines. Boasting more than 300 acres of oak and birch trees and more than half a mile of the Normans Kill shoreline, it’s a peaceful place to go for a bike ride and soak up the atmosphere.
“It’s such a beautiful area,” said Bethlehem Town Supervisor David VanLuven. “Now that I’ve successfully created the park, I’m strongly committed to making improvements because [it] will open the property so community members can enjoy its gorgeous forests, wetlands, ravines and riversides.”
The park was formed by converting a property the town had purchased into parkland, and by purchasing a 68.8-acre forested parcel from the Normanside Country Club. Using the town’s Parkland Set Aside Fund – which has funds in place that can only be used for park-related purposes – the Normans Kill Ravines Park was officially open to the public and had its ribbon cutting ceremony on May 26, 2021.
“I am thrilled to be part of a unique new park in Bethlehem that will allow for more outdoor activity to our town residents and mountain bikers,” said Mark Bryant, a local mountain biking enthusiast at the ceremony. “I am especially looking forward to how the business community will benefit from the new park being so close to the center of town where people can socialize at restaurants.”
And he isn’t the only one – roughly $200,000 in state grants and private donations have been designated for work on the park, with the goal to forge new mountain bike paths and post clear signage for the trails and surrounding points of interest.
VanLuven said he is excited to move forward with the renovations and additions to the walking and mountain biking trails that will highlight the park’s beautiful landscape.
“It’s hard to be patient,” said VanLuven, noting that it takes time to design, get permits, raise funds, and build trails and bridges for the community. “But just as it takes time for children to grow to adulthood, it takes time for a park to mature into its full potential. Fortunately, we have a great community working with us to help the park reach its full potential quickly.”