CAROGA LAKE - Supporters of the Caroga Lake campsite and day-use area got a boost Monday, when the state Department of Environmental Conservation proposed a plan to let the facility open on a limited schedule, on the condition that money can be secured by lawmakers or through private donations.
State Sen. Hugh T. Farley, R-Niskayuna, and Assemblyman Marc W. Butler, R-Newport, said they are trying to find state resources to help close the budget gap that the DEC has identified as a barrier to opening the campground.
"We're doing the best we can to provide funding," Farley said. "It's absolutely essential for [Caroga Lake's] economic surroundings."
Butler said the DEC has given him and Farley a deadline of May 10 to prove their "financial commitment" to the campsite. He said they would like to ensure the site stays open for years to come.
"We're dealing with this on a long-term basis," Butler said. "We're going to have a much more aggressive promotional effort, possibly an event to show [the changes to the site]."
Butler said he and Farley will continue to work with Caroga officials and the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry on the effort. If the two lawmakers cannot secure enough state money, local officials will turn to campsite patrons and community members for donations.
Although neither Farley nor Butler were able to confirm the exact amount needed to run the site for the summer, Caroga Councilwoman Valerie Scribner and chamber President Wally Hart both said the amount is in the "tens of thousands."
Scribner began the "Keep Caroga Lake Camp Site Open" Facebook group - which has more than 5,000 members - and helped organize an April 11 rally in front of the Red Store on Route 29A.
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She has posted a link on the Facebook page through which people are able to donate money to help keep the site open.
"I'm glad DEC stepped up to the plate and gave us something to look forward to," Scribner said.
The DEC's proposed operation scenario calls for a shortened season. From May 28 to June 24, the site would be open three days per week -Thursday morning through Sunday evening. From June 25 through Labor Day, it would be open seven days a week.
Farley, Butler and other local leaders met with DEC representatives April 20 in Albany. They discussed the importance of the campsite to residents and business owners and what would be needed financially to keep the site open.
Hart said although he is hopeful for the state funding, he knows the challenges New York state faces.
"We may not have a state budget until August," Hart said. "So who knows?"
"If they came up with funding, that would be great, but we can't depend on that," Hart said. "It would be great to say the senator got us X amount of money and the assemblyman got us this amount of money, but we just don't know."
Hart said to confirm their financial commitment, he and other officials plan to draft a letter to send to DEC.
He said the fundraising effort through the Facebook group is an important sign.
"I think a lot of those people care not just about the campsite but Caroga as well," Hart said.
Besides the Facebook group, contributions also may be made in care of the Fulton County Chamber Foundation, 2 N. Main St., Gloversville, NY 12078. With or without a Facebook account, one can donate online through the website www.causes.com and searching for "Keep Caroga Lake Camp Site Open."
Joel DiTata can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.