Karner blue to get habitat in Saratoga Spa State Park

By Stephen Williams


Reporters who devote more than a semicolon and three dashes to environmental coverage find their inboxes full on Earth Day.

The delete button and recycling bin are wonderful things, but a few items seem worth passing on.

First, the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is creating new Karner blue butterfly habitat at Saratoga Spa State Park.

That’s nice. The dime-size blue butterflies are pretty, and outside of a handful of places in the Capital Region they are as rare as a grizzly willing to share its salmon.

On Earth Day, which was Wednesday, fifth-graders from Saratoga’s Waldorf School helped spread the seeds of Karner-friendly native plants and wildflowers across a 1.5-acre site on the east side of the park that is being turned into Karner blue habitat.

The $10,000 project started last year when state naturalists cleared away existing shrubs and bushes, so blue lupine and other nectar plants that draw butterflies could be planted.

A split-rail fence will be set up to protect the habitat, and informational/educational signs will be installed.

Once the work is done, the old field will resemble the kind of pine-scrub oak barrens that the endangered butterfly favors: places like the Albany Pine Bush, the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, and the meadows at the Saratoga County Airport in Milton.

The few thousand butterflies that hatch in those locations every June and July — and live just a few days — are the largest Karner blue populations remaining in the world.

State park aid

There will be $750,000 in state capital improvement funds coming to the Saratoga park this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The planned projects include $400,000 to purchase new high-efficiency boilers for the park’s ornate and historic buildings, and $300,000 for general upgrades and repairs. Another $55,000 is earmarked for installing a “green” parking lot at the Roosevelt Baths — a paved surface that is porous to stormwater, allowing that water to drain directly into the ground below and reducing stormwater runoff.

A porous pavement was installed in 2013 on the main

parking lot of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

There are long-term plans for a classroom building near the Geyser Creek and for trail improvements, too, though it isn’t clear how far they’ll progress this year.

At Moreau Lake State Park, meanwhile, the state will spend $700,000 this year to build five new rental cabins at the campground.

At the Johnson Hall Historic Site in Johnstown, $200,000 will be spent to convert a vacant blockhouse into an interpretive building, explaining the life and times of Sir William Johnson, Britain’s last overlord of the Mohawk Valley, a hero of the French and Indian Wars who died on the eve of the American Revolution, which would have found him on the wrong side of history.

Johnson is even a discoverer of Saratoga Springs, since Mohawk Indians brought him to High Rocks Springs — the “great medicine spring” — in 1771.

Elsewhere, the Walkway Over the Hudson at Poughkeepsie and Letchworth State Park in western New York — two of my favorite parks — are also expecting improvements. But so is nearly every major park in the state, as Cuomo’s administration tries to make up for years of neglect to the state park system.

The money is part of the $110 million Cuomo has promised to invest in the park system this year.




Published in May/June 2015 Save the Pine Bush Newsletter