Bristol Beach is one of the hidden treasures of Saugerties. It is 165 acres of undeveloped forest, stretching from Route 9W to the Hudson River. Although it’s a state park, there has been no development of internal roads, recreation or picnic areas, and no formal trails.
The property once belonged to the town, but a previous Town Board let the state take it over 45 years ago. Steve Guerin and James “Spider” Barbour, members of the town’s Conservation Advisory Committee (CAC), would like the town to consider reacquiring the property from the state so it can make improvements to the park.
“Bristol Beach was deeded to the town for the specific purpose of recreation, boat ramps and such, and the CAC has decided that if the Town Board approves, we would like you to pass a resolution so we can send it off to our elected [state] officials,” said Guerin. “As you well know, reacquiring a gem like Bristol Beach, which is on the Hudson, provides an opportunity for both economic development and tourism.”
Councilwoman Leeanne Thornton said she has discussed the proposal with Assemblyman Pete Lopez, “and he is very enthusiastic about the possibility of this project.”
Guerin said members of his committee have had discussions with elected officials, but without the Town Board’s support, “they were just nice, polite conversations over a cup of coffee. Since the town did acquire it by deed, but then gave it up, we feel there is an opportunity to reacquire it at no cost to the community. Once we have that property deeded to the community, we can make determinations on how we wish to proceed with development of the site. ”
The site was, at one time, a brick factory, so the question of disturbing a wilderness area should not be a factor, Guerin said.
This is not the first time citizens have tried to interest the town in reacquiring the property and develop it, Thornton said. “There was a committee about 25 years ago – they had a portfolio this thick – and they presented it to the board at that time and there was no interest among the members of that board to pursue it.”
The area is home to several endangered species, “and some of these species are development dependent, but they are rare in New York State,” Barbour said. “New York State hasn’t paid much attention to Bristol Beach; they toss it from agency to agency like a football.”
Councilman Fred Costello questioned whether the town could go to the state without a vision for what it wants to do with the property, “or are we just saying we would be better stewards?” He warned that if the town were to acquire the property, “we would be putting money into it. We need to be careful what we wish for.”
Supervisor Kelly Myers suggested that the development of recreational facilities at the park could be eligible for a Hudson River grant. She also cited the success of the Esopus Creek Conservancy in maintaining the property surrounding the Esopus Bend without requiring any resources from the town. And, she said, “it would be good to discuss this at a public forum.”
Steve Chorvas of the Esopus Creek Conservancy has explored the property. He said the ruins of the brick factory could pose a liability problem. He doesn’t believe the Conservancy is interested in managing the property.
To get to Bristol Beach State Park, take Route 9W north of the village of Saugerties and past Malden-on-Hudson. Just north of Route 34, make a right turn onto Emerick Road and follow it to the end. For more information on Bristol Beach State Park, call (845) 255-0753 or log on to http://www.palisadesparksconservancy.org/parks/21/.