By Tyler Murphy
NEW SCOTLAND — A draft master plan, designed to chart the future of the John Boyd Thacher and Thompson’s Lake state parks, will be released in the spring instead of by the end of the year, said New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation officials.
Planner for the office, Salim Chishti, said the group responsible for developing the plan is still in the process of creating a draft after it postponed some meetings due to scheduling conflicts and illness.
“Mostly, people have been ill and we’ve been unable to all meet,” he said.
“We were originally planning to have a draft by December, but we’re not sure when they’ll have a draft,” said Chishti, before estimating a draft could be presented to the public by “early spring.”
In March, the office announced it was creating a master plan, by beginning a yearlong review and public feedback process to chart future development and operations at the two Helderberg parks.
In working to create the parks’ first master plan, the office has assembled an internal planning team of administrators, park staff, and professional planners,
The plan will eventually document the state’s goals in operating the parks and will involve a broad review of current practices, services, and facilities.
“The process of creating a master plan is positive,” said the office’s regional director Alane Ball-Chinian, in April when announcing the plan.
“It signals the agency is willing to invest significant resources in the park,” she said, “Just creating the plan alone draws a lot of the agency’s internal attention.”
The review of the park comes about two years after former Governor David Paterson attempted to close the park, along with 40 others across the state, in February 2010, in order to save about $225,000. Public protest over the closures eventually led legislators to reverse the decision.
The planning group still has much to do before creating a draft, said Chishti, and will meet with some of the park’s user groups, such as the Friends of Thacher, in closed-door work sessions. He said meeting with user groups is, “a next step in the process.”
The office held two public feedback sessions in May, marking suggestions from the public in an official record. A public comment period was also extended to June 15 after the meetings, with the remarks incorporated in the draft’s summary.
Chishti said the office had not received much community response outside of the public workshops and still encourages people to contact the office.
“People can make comments at any time; though at this point it won’t get recorded in the public record, we’d still consider them,” he said.
After the office releases a draft, it will schedule a public hearing and have another official comment period for residents to respond to on the draft. After that, Chishti said, the planning team would revise the draft and present a final plan to the public, which would then go to the park’s commissioner, Rose Harvey, for final approval.