BALLSTON – The grand opening of Anchor Diamond Park took place on Saturday, Oct. 29 despite the rain. According to Town Board Member Kelly Stewart, some attendees even took the opportunity to hike the new trails afterwards.
The 246-acre park is located at the corner of Route 50 and Middleline Road on the site of the former Hawkwood Mansion. The park features 4.5 miles of wooded hiking trails. Some trails are marked, but not fully cleared. Work on the trails will continue in the spring.
The park was funded by bequest of the late Frank Schidzick for a passive recreation park, of approximately $900,000. The park was planned and developed by the Parks and Recreation Committee, Saratoga PLAN and Town Board Members John Antoski and Stewart.
The park’s trail system was designed by ecologist Mike Gaige and several Eagle Scouts completed projects within the park. Additional help was provided by the Town Highway Department and Superintendent Joe Whalen.
Town Supervisor Tim Szczepaniak and Stewart spoke at the opening, thanking the groups and individuals who were involved in the development of the park, including Town Historian Rick Reynolds, and Schidzick’s daughters, Michelle Petuske and Cheryl Ross.
Szcepaniak and Stewart also paid tribute to Schidzick for his donation, unveiling a plaque dedicating the park to his memory. Schidzick’s daughter, Petuske, shared memories about her parents and their community ties.
Town Historian Reynolds gave a speech on the history of the property. The house that once stood there, known as the Hawkwood Mansion, had a number of owners. In the 1800’s, the house was owned by Guy Baker who was frequently visited by his friend, Theodore Roosevelt.
Reynolds noted the significance of the 26th President of the United States visiting the land that has become Anchor Diamond Park. During his presidency, Roosevelt established five national parks and signed the Antiquities Act authorizing presidents to proclaim historic landmarks in federal ownership as national monuments.
“Today, we do much of the same thing as Teddy Roosevelt did: we in the town of Ballston preserve a piece of our past so that we can make good use of it in the present and into the future,” Reynolds said.
Portions of the foundation from the estate still exist on the property and are visible in areas of the park. Reynolds led an archaeological dig with approximately 70 volunteers at two sites on the property this past summer.
To conclude the ceremony, New York State Assemblyman Jim Tedisco gave a citation and Supervisor Szczepaniak cut the ribbon officially opening Anchor Diamond Park to the public.
According to Town Board Member Stewart, the Parks and Recreation Committee will develop a long-term plan for the park before moving forward on any additional features.
“We will continue to work on making the park attractive to visitors through setting and repairing bridges on planned trails. We would also like to develop educational features such as the history of the parcel and special nature exhibits,” she said.
Anchor Diamond Park is a passive park protected by a conservation easement. Hunting and motorized vehicles including dirt bikes, ATVs, and snowmobiles are not permitted. Activities in the park are subject to approval by Saratoga PLAN.
Saratoga PLAN is seeking volunteers to act as trail stewards to help clear and maintain the park’s trails. Additional information is available on the Town website.