The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) today announced that 750 acres of the former Mount McGregor State Correctional Facility property in Saratoga County will be transferred to Moreau Lake State Park. A map identifying the new parkland is attached.
“I’m thrilled that New York State will open these 750 acres of beautiful forested land to the public for outdoor recreation,” said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. “Moreau Lake State Park is visited by hundreds of thousands of outdoor enthusiasts each year for camping, swimming and exploring its popular trail network. Adding this land to the park will greatly expand the recreational opportunities in the region, preserve open space in fast-growing Saratoga County and ensure access to the Grant Cottage State Historic Site.”
The new park lands, located in the towns of Corinth, Wilton and Moreau, include extensive forests and wetlands and the shores of Lake Bonita, a scenic undeveloped lake. The transfer extends the park's protection of a mountain ridge known as the Palmertown Range and includes a key segment of a planned long-distance Palmertown Ridge Trail that eventually will connect Saratoga Springs to Moreau Lake.
State Parks will undertake a public planning effort in the coming months to give the public an opportunity to comment on how best to provide recreational access to the new parkland, which will include creation of hiking trails and access to Lake Bonita. Public access to the property is currently limited with no parking areas or maintained trails.
The lands transferred to State Parks also include Grant Cottage State Historic Site, the site where President Ulysses S. Grant died in July 1885. General Grant spent the last five weeks of his life at the cottage, writing his memoirs while battling cancer. The Cottage became an historic site in 1890 and today the cottage remains essentially the same as during the Grant family's stay. Visitors can tour the downstairs of the cottage, viewing the original furnishings, decorations and personal items belonging to Grant, including the bed where he died, and floral arrangements that remain from Grant's August 4th funeral. The site opens for the season Memorial Day weekend.
The reuse of the full 1,025-acre former Mount McGregor Correctional Facility property is being coordinated by Empire State Development and the Office of General Services.
Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “By working in collaboration with our partner agencies, the New York State Office of General Services and New York State Parks, we have been able to realize a unique approach for the reuse of the Mount McGregor facility that addresses both an opportunity for private investment and public uses. The transfer of hundreds of acres of land to Moreau Lake State Park will no doubt draw visitors and help boost the tourism economy in Saratoga County, while offering more open space for residents to enjoy outdoor recreational activities.”
“Governor Cuomo has made it a priority to encourage visitors and residents to enjoy all our state has to offer, especially our rich history and glorious parks,” Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito said. “Adding this acreage to Moreau Lake State Park and ensuring access to historic Grant Cottage will open up even more ways for families to see and enjoy New York.”
"The transfer of 750 acres of land to Moreau Lake State Park is good news as it will enhance and expand access to hiking trails and other outdoor recreational activities. Most important, it will ensure the continued operation of Grant's Cottage, a historic site and popular local attraction, and that it is cared for and maintained under the close, careful supervision of the State Parks Department," said New York State Senator Kathy Marchione, Chair of the Senate's Local Government Committee.
“The addition of Mount McGregor to Moreau State Park will make an already beautiful asset even more appealing,” said Senator Betty Little, who chairs the Senate Cultural Affairs, Tourism and Parks and Recreation Committee. “That’s great news for area residents looking to enjoy the outdoors and for the region, which depends a great deal on a strong tourism economy.”
“These lands will be a wonderful addition to our State park system, and will provide environmental, recreational and tourism-related benefits for the region,” said Senator Hugh T. Farley. “I applaud the efforts of the Governor and his state agencies in working with local officials and organizations to ensure the preservation and public use of these wild lands, while also taking steps to find productive uses for the facility campus which will benefit the local economy.”
“The publication of this Request for Proposal is a key step to ensuring an expeditious transition from correctional facility to new development that will benefit the residents of Saratoga County and our neighboring regions,” said Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner. “I look forward to partnering with Empire State Development, as well as other state agencies, municipalities, and community stakeholders, to maximize the potential of the Mount McGregor site.”
Assemblyman Daniel Stec said, “I am pleased to see this proposal moving forward. The environmental, historical and economic benefits this project offers to the community are very positive.”
Wilton Town Supervisor Art Johnson said, “I’m pleased that ESD has released the RFP for the sale and redevelopment of Mount McGregor, and that undeveloped lands will be added to Moreau Lake State Park. This is a very desirable site that should bring lots of interest. There are many potential reuses for the property. I especially look forward to replacing the many jobs lost with the closure.”
“Our board has been very supportive of creating more parkland and trails,” said Moreau Town Supervisor Preston Jenkins, Jr. “We’re very happy the land will be used for expanding Moreau Lake State Park. It’s one of the best State Parks in the nation.”
“I’m glad to be part of a partnership to develop new lands that can be accessed by the public, and that the public will have a say in how the park is used,” said Town of Corinth Supervisor Richard Lucia. “We look forward to working with the community on this project.”
“The designation of a portion of the former McGregor Prison lands as permanent parkland is an outstanding gift to the people of New York State,” said Maria Trabka, Executive Director of Saratoga PLAN. “The Palmertown Range is a jewel in northern Saratoga County, a 62-square mile complex of wild woodlands and wetlands, providing environmental services like clean air and water and wildlife habitats, while offering ample opportunities for compatible public access and outdoor recreation close to local population centers.”
“Congratulations to the Cuomo administration for their commitment to protecting the natural and historic resources located on the grounds of Mount McGregor. For more than 20 years OSI has worked with State Parks to build and expand Moreau Lake State Park,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute. “Transformation of Mount McGregor into a protected recreational asset will not only greatly serve the residents of Saratoga County, but also advances our shared vision of connecting Moreau Lake and Saratoga Spa State Parks.”
“Audubon New York commends Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Harvey for expanding the Moreau Lake State Park and ensuring the protection of this critical forest habitat,” said Erin Crotty, Executive Director of Audubon New York. “The Southern Adirondack Audubon Society has been a leading voice for protecting this Important Bird Area, and we applaud all the partners who worked to ensure these acres are permanently preserved.”
The additional park acreage underscores Governor Cuomo’s commitment to improving and expanding access to outdoor recreation. NY Parks 2020 is a multi-year commitment to leverage a broad range of private and public funding to invest approximately $900 million in State Parks from 2011 to 2020. The 2015-16 State Budget includes $110 million toward this initiative.
Moreau Lake State Park is a 4,531-acre park that attracts almost 400,000 people each year as a destination for swimming, kayaking, wildlife viewing, hiking, fishing, hunting and more. The park’s Nature Center provides educational programming for park visitors and local students throughout the summer months.
With its proximity to both Lake George and Saratoga Springs, the park is attractive to visitors year-round as it offers ice fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and other winter activities. In recent years the park has become a very popular destination for bald eagle watching in the cold winter months, when eagles winter along the shores of Moreau Lake itself, or along the Hudson River, which runs along the west side of the park property.