Photo: Lori Van Buren, Albany Times Union
CHARLTON – Little Troy Park has been called a quaint, a place to savor a retro summer and the season’s simplest pleasures – water, sand and sun.
Yet this 60-year-old swimming hole, a once popular spot for families with children, is under threat. If it cannot attract more members, the Alplauskill-fed pond, park and its amenities might disappear. Those who love it, who have volunteered for years to keep it going, are fighting to keep it open for their children and grandchildren with an open invitation to all.
“Come,” said Ginny Parsons who will soon step down as president. “People don’t know it’s here. We want people to come. It’s a hidden treasure.”
Incoming co-President Kate Pierce said memberships now hover at about 50. To join for the season, the cost runs from $390 for a family to $190 for a single person. There are also mini-members (10 visits for a family) for $140 and guest passes for $7 per day. These fees for the park on Old Stage Road hardly cover the cost of running the facility, especially salaries for three life guards, said Teddi Smith, the park’s treasurer.
“This year, we took in over $13,000,” Smith said. “We need a more. We are not meeting our expenses. We need to fund raise and figure out how to stabilize.”
Parsons thinks part of the problem is the name. People automatically thinks it’s in Troy, not in the peaceful rural environs of Charlton, in Saratoga County. The board of the nonprofit has been brainstorming a new name, but balk at eliminating Troy because it’s historic — a group from the Collar City settled the area and the 20-acre park borders Little Troy Lane.
They will do what it takes, however, to get people to pay attention — to realize the park exists and then to come and visit it.
“We need to get the word out,” Parsons said. “Once it’s lost, its gone.”
The park was established in 1957 when the property’s owner, Charlie Bogue, told the swim club that they could use the land indefinitely. All they would have to do is pay the property taxes and insurance. The agreement, now with Bogue’s grandsons, continues to this day. Pierce hopes the park can too.
“I grew up here,” said Pierce who is also a teacher with the Shenendehowa school district. “I learned to swim here, I was a life guard here. When we moved back here, I wanted to bring my three kids here. Rich friendships develop here.”
She says the appeals are many. Children have the freedom to play freely and cooperatively with children of all ages. They learn about nature. Pierce said the kids found a baby turtle the day before and each gathered around to examine and talk about it. Children also like to capture crayfish in the creek. Then there was Daisy the Duck, an injured bird that found at the park and brought to a veterinarian to be rehabilitated. After that, Daisy became one of the park kids.
“The duck spent the whole season with us,” Smith said. “When the kids went in the water, he would follow them in.”
From a parent’s point of view, one of best things about the park are the affordable, small group swim lessons that are set at $60 for six weeks, four days a week for a half-hour.
“Their swimming has progressed so quickly,” Pierce said. “There is a comfort to learning to swim here. They can gradually go into the water. It’s not like a pool where they have to jump in over their head or hang onto the side. They can gain confidence more easily here. It’s unique.”
On the last week of the summer season on a 90-degree day, the atmosphere is relaxed. On the uncrowded shore, parents can easily watch their children play — digging in the sand, pumping their legs on the swings or hanging out to the raft where they play rock, paper scissors. As the day wore on, children grab ice pops kept cold in the park’s small clubhouse.
Stephanie Holley, incoming co-president with Pierce, said she remembers the park’s heyday in the 1980s when about 160 families were members. A friend brought her to the park as a guest.
“I never left,” Holley said with a laugh.
Since that time, she said, a lot has changed including families pressed with busy schedules and mother’s going to work. But Little Troy Park’s charm has not diminished.
“It’s a positive environment where rich friendships are developed,” Holley said. “It’s a different time, but things are not different here. It’s neat.”