Town and DEC say they lack resources for swimming, despite public outcry
By Gwendolyn Craig
Plans to close and revegetate a popular Fulton County beach on Great Sacandaga Lake drew about three dozen people to a meeting with state officials Tuesday night.
Most residents, who have enjoyed the man-made sandy shoreline on the impounded reservoir, were upset about the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s management proposal. The town had originally operated the beach for decades through a memorandum of understanding with the DEC, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, the beach closed. The town alerted DEC that it would not reopen it.
The town’s notice has left DEC staff with the job of telling residents if there’s no one to manage it, there will be no beach.
State Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston, and a representative from state Sen. Mark Walczyk’s office, R-Watertown, were at the meeting. They introduced themselves before the gathering and said they would be taking notes and hearing from constituents.
No one from the Broadalbin Town Board attended the meeting Tuesday, and the town offices were closed on Wednesday. The town’s attorney Anthony Casale spoke with the Explorer Wednesday morning and said the town’s leadership had changed. Former Supervisor Bruce VanGenderen resigned earlier this year due to health issues. Deputy Supervisor Doug Kissinger took his place. Kissinger was on vacation, Casale said.
Any hopes from residents about the town managing the beach once more appeared dashed. Casale said, “the town board has no intent of revisiting the issue of reopening the town beach at any time in the immediate future.”
While he did not have specifics, Casale said the cost of patrolling the beach was too much. Town officials sought funding assistance from Fulton County, but Casale said that was unsuccessful.
In a presentation, DEC officials said they, too, did not have the resources to manage a public beach.
Josh Clague, Adirondack coordinator for the DEC, said the proposed management plan would likely see some changes after DEC reviewed comments, but added no public comments received thus far had included anyone else taking over the beach operations. The plan could be approved as early as the end of May. DEC staff said something would have to be done before the summer, and that amendments could always be made to management plans.
During the presentation, Rob Fiorentino, DEC Region 5 fisheries manager, said the department’s Division of Operations, which staffs other beaches like Lake George’s Million Dollar Beach, did not have the capacity to run the Broadalbin Beach. Without a group to patrol, conduct water-quality testing and lifeguard the facility, the state is liable for any incidents there.
Fiorentino said the DEC hopes to reduce illegal use by planting seeds in the sandy soils and revegetating it.
Residents pressed the DEC for what would be planted on the beach. Fiorentino said that would be determined in a work plan, which follows the adoption of a unit management plan. Areas in the Adirondack Park have unit management plans describing the natural and physical resources at a site, and any projects the DEC wishes to undertake there. The plans must conform with the Adirondack Park Agency’s rules and regulations. The APA oversees public and private development in the park.
Some residents were conflicted about Tuesday night’s meeting. They were appreciative that the DEC held one, but frustrated by its timing. The public comment period for the unit management plan had ended, and DEC staff said they would not be taking additional comments except for those made at the meeting.
George Pifko Jr., a resident of Broadalbin, expressed incredulity that the state would hold a public information meeting on the last day it would accept comments.
“The plan is in opposition to the general well-being to the citizens of the town,” Pifko said.
Residents thought the state’s claims about illegal use were exaggerated, too. One resident read from a list of law enforcement reports she had received through a records request. It showed most calls were unfounded or were people walking on the beach. Residents said since the town stopped managing the beach, trash and crowds have become a problem.
Tuesday afternoon, the former beach parking area, now gated off with concrete barriers and yellow bars, was littered with trash. The beach’s sandy shore had the remnants of an illegal campfire ring. The shoreline looked out on sweeping views of Great Sacandaga Lake, mountains in the distance. Dozens of signs lined the boat launch parking lot and the former beach parking lot warning that the area is for boat use only. There are no temporary spots for viewing the water.
Linda LaCasse, of Broadalbin, said she had not been to the beach in about three years because it had become too crowded. She hoped something could be done to keep it open for younger residents. She did not feel that the DEC and APA were the best people to present at the meeting, considering the beach’s long history.
“I’m frustrated,” she said. “You have to look out for the next generation.”
Keith Buchanan, president of the Broadalbin Youth Commission, said he now has to bring students to Mayfield or somewhere else out of town. He and others asked the DEC whether it was possible to keep the beach open if someone stepped up to manage it.
“The deadline is when the commissioner signs it,” Fiorentino said.
Adirondack policy, in plain speak.
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