Lawson Lake

About Lawson Lake

In January 2012, Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy took office as the first new County Executive since 1995. He identified a number of major priorities for his administration even before taking office, including enhancing veterans’ services and making fiscally responsible decisions for the residents of our county.  Another focus involves a little-known Albany County resource called Lawson Lake Park. This park was used for many years by the organization Camp Opportunities which ultimately became the Boys and Girls Club. Unfortunately, due to transportation and maintenance cost increases, it became impossible for the Boys and Girls Club to utilize the park for its summer activities and the camp was not run.  It fell into disrepair and was only used by a few local citizens or destructive trespassers.

When County Executive McCoy found out this “jewel” had lost much of its sparkle, he immediately looked for ways to reopen the site so everyone could enjoy it. The first step was to confirm with the proper authorities that a dual-use of the property as a public resource to be utilized by not-for-profit entities was legally permissible. Once that was confirmed, it was essential that a detailed examination of the property be conducted to determine where work was needed and how it should be done.  It became apparent very quickly that this project would be a multi-year effort and assistance and partnerships would be the best way to get the job done. With that in mind, County Executive McCoy turned to two key county partners, Albany County District Attorney David Soares and Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, Sr.  Both the Sheriff and the DA agreed that Albany County kids could and should reap the positive benefits from enjoying camp at Lawson Lake Park.

Additionally, the partnership would allow for more resources to help in the remediation effort. Now that there was a support system in place, cleanup of the lower half of the park, closest to the lake was the first goal. This effort was predominantly characterized by the removal of significant accumulated debris inside and outside of buildings. Trash was removed, roofs were swept and yard waste was hauled away. There was also considerable repair work necessary where trespassers and vandals had caused damage. All of these efforts were completed through the combined resources of the County Executive, County Sheriff and the DA.

Time was of the essence as another summer camp season quickly approached.  It took a lot of hard work to reach the goal. Not only did the Boys and Girls Club offer day camp, but both St. Catherine’s Center for Children and The Pride Center of the Capital Region were able to utilize the park as well. Success with phase one but there is still so much more that needs to be done.  The next steps include administration of the 2014 summer camp, upper camp remediation and the initiation of a long-term development plan.

Creative resource management and partnerships like these will be required in order to make Lawson Lake Park the resource that it should be for Albany County and the entire Capital Region.Simply stated: we need resources and we need money. Albany County is like most municipal governments throughout New York State.  Our resources are limited and partnerships with community organizations, not-for-profits, private corporations and both state and federal governments are critical. We need your help.  The list of potential ideas for the park is endless and they cannot become a reality without large-scale cooperation.Our next step will be the funding and completion of a full engineering assessment of the approximately 420-acre park and its 25 buildings. This assessment will tell us what buildings should be removed or replaced. It will also allow the county to begin updating and adding essential infrastructure including bathrooms, a new water system, construction of a new playground, upgrades to the existing sports facilities, remediation of the waterfront, boat launch and docks, renovation of the caretaker house and repair of the upper camp entranceway. It will also allow progress to be made on new construction ideas such as a guard station, snack bar, obstacle course and lean-tos. Finally, we’ll have to develop a plan for ongoing park maintenance. Priorities include trail maintenance, electrical and gas system maintenance, establishing a trash hauling service and managing building upkeep. Partnering with the Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, Explorers and 4-H are all valuable possibilities that will be explored. The most time-consuming but important challenge we will face during renovations and expansion of Lawson Lake will be confronting the water quality issues that currently limit use. The lake is really the size of a pond, with a total surface area of approximately 25 acres and a maximum depth of 15 feet. Activities like kayaking, canoeing and fishing are allowed but algae blooms severely impact water quality.  That has caused the New York State Department of Conservation to ban swimming in the lake. It is our goal to improve the water quality so that swimming will be allowed. We must move forward aggressively and multi-task effectively to make up for the short construction season in the northeast and to finish the remediation of the park by 2014. Lawson Lake Park is a “jewel” of Albany County with tremendous potential. Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy wants you to partner with him to continue polishing that gem to make it shine as a recreation destination in Albany County!