County considers turning over park

Burbine forest and trail may go to soil district

FONDA — The Montgomery County Legislature is set to consider a resolution to turn over the maintenance of the Thomas H. Burbine Memorial Forest & Nature Trail to the Soil and Water Conservation District of Montgomery County.

Described as a “forever wild territory” on Montgomery County’s website, the 100-acre county-owned park is located on Corbin Hill Road in the hamlet of Sprakers, in the town of Charleston, with about 50 acres of the park located on either side of the road.

Scott Davis, a district technician for to the Soil and Water Conservation District of Montgomery County, made a presentation to the legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee July 11 to make his pitch for why the county should let his organization manage the park.

“For the foreseeable future we’d like to take it over and maintain it and implement some new features to it,” Davis said.

The Soil and Water Conservation District of Montgomery County is a county entity that has about five full-time employees and is empowered by New York state’s Soil Conservation District Law. Davis said the Soil and Water Conservation District typically engages in four or five projects annually to help farm properties better protect the soil and water from manure runoff and other agricultural waste.

He said this year the district received more funding from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, which has prompted it to allocate $15,000 to a park project.

Davis said the trail portion of the Thomas H. Burbine Memorial Forest & Nature Trail was partially created as an Eagle Scout project. He said if the conservation district is given control of the park it will rip up the woodchip trail and replace it with an engineering fabric used for trails and cover that with five inches of soil. He said the district would also like to spend about $3,000 to create a stone patch parking area for three or four cars and about $300 to create a kiosk area with a sign-in sheet to help track the use of the park.

Davis said one the reasons the conservation district chose the Burbine location was feedback from a family that stopped in to talk to him.

“The trailways have been neglected, are overgrown and need to be refinished. I was up there working there one day and a family came in and said they’d always driven past there and they wanted to go in, but unfortunately I had to tell them they couldn’t go very far because they physically just couldn’t get in there, physically, in terms of their being tall grass and ticks and everything,” he said.

Davis said the conservation district would also like to have Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops be allowed to help with the maintenance of the park.

Budget & Finance Committee Chairman Michael Pepe, who represents District 7, said some legal liability issues will need to be worked out before the legislature grants control of the park to conservation district. He said County Attorney Meghan Manion will research the liability implications of Davis’ proposal and report her findings to the legislature.

“Obviously, we have to develop an agreement, drafted by our counsel, that covers all of the bases here. [Davis and Manion] will formulate an agreement that helps us maintain and enhance one of our assets,” Pepe said.

Davis said if things go well with the conservation district’s plans for Burbine, he said his district may request to take over control of other county-owned parks in a similar fashion.

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