geological exhibits and features spur major gift from escarpment neighbor. Volunteer
team collects specimen rocks and fossils to highlight park’s worldwide significance.
VOORHEESVILLE, NY — September 8, 2016 — As
the construction on Thacher Park Center progresses, the fundraising campaign,
led by the Open Space Institute (OSI), is also gaining critical momentum. The
campaign today announced a $75,000 contribution from devoted Thacher Park
neighbor and local businessman Jeff Thomas and his family. Mr. Thomas’ gift
brings the total raised to nearly $650,000 toward a $1 million goal, with the exhibit
design and fabrication process well underway.
“Jeff Thomas has a long association with Thacher Park and a
passion for helping the area's youth. We cannot thank him enough for his
generous donation,” said Erik Kulleseid, OSI Senior Vice President and
Executive Director of its Alliance for New York State Parks Program.
“Thacher Park has been our family's backyard for 26 years. 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,” said Thomas.
Mr. Thomas’ gift will sponsor a set of geological exhibits
in the center’s main hall. Additional opportunities for sponsorship at the
Thacher Park Center include a fire pit, custom fossil-themed lighting features,
overlook interpretive panels, and the fossil-adorned hearth.
The local fossils and rock specimens for the hearth have
been collected (see photos)
by a group of volunteers to ensure the park’s rich geological contribution is
front and center. Indeed the entire project has been marked by strong support from
geological enthusiasts and scientists alike, who are ensuring the area’s 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
“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.”
The campaign is working with a panel of regional academic
geologists to ensure the exhibits are engaging and relevant to all ages and
representative of the park’s geological importance. The panel is led by Charles
Ver Straeten, NY State Museum/Geological Survey, and consists of: Alex
Bartholomew, SUNY New Paltz; Thom Engel, Northeastern Cave Conservancy; Megan Fung,
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI); John Garver, Union College; Mimi Katz,
RPI; Krysia Kornecki, RPI; Heather Sloan, Lehman College at CUNY; Jacqueline
Smith, College of St. Rose; Ed Stander, SUNY Cobleskill; and Laura Tedesco,
Troy High School.
Through several trips, 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 fascinating
geological and paleontological stories.
“It is exciting to watch support and momentum growing for
the new Thacher Park Center, a beloved escape for generations throughout the
Capital Region,” Kulleseid said. “OSI is proud to support the Thacher Park
Center, allowing new generations to enjoy this wonderful place for many years
For years, despite the popularity of Thacher—which welcomes
more than 380,000 people every year—the park has operated without a central
welcome center, while the Capital District has lacked public exhibits devoted
to its own importance in the history of the study of geology.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and OSI announced plans for the new
Thacher Park Center in June 2015. The center, a signature project in the
Governor’s NY Parks 2020 Plan to revitalize and transform the state park
system, is being funded through a combination of OSI’s private fundraising campaign
and public funds.
As the 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.
In May, OSI unveiled additional opportunities to donate to
the campaign by sponsoring benches, patio pavers or trees. All opportunities
are available through the park center campaign’s website, www.thacherparkcenter.org.
Thacher State Park 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, in the 19th
century the Helderbergs were an international destination for the study of
ancient rocks and fossils.