New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has invested nearly $400,000 in new handicapped-accessible facilities at Kenneth L. Wilson State Campground, west of Woodstock, as part of the state’s Adventure NY initiative to connect more New Yorkers with nature. Although the campground’s swimming area has not been reopened, a $50,000 study is planned to determine the feasibility of reviving swimming.
Wendy Rosenbach, spokesperson for the DEC, said Wilson is one of DEC’s most accessible campgrounds for people with disabilities. The new accessible features include a nature trail with a wildlife viewing platform, a fishing pier, a floating canoe/kayak launch, and new rest rooms. Future campground improvements on tap include a dog park, accessible features at the day-use picnic area and the pavilion cooking area, and the installation of two accessible horseshoe pits.
When DEC announced the plans for upgrades last summer, the possibility of restoring swimming was included. A public hearing was held, eliciting an abundance of comments in favor of reviving the swimming area.
The popular swimming beach was closed in 2004 because of a proliferation of aquatic vegetation, a rise in the lake bottom due to silting, and the long-term presence of Canada geese, whose droppings made conditions unsanitary.
Rosenbach said the agency is committed to conducting a feasibility study that will address such issues as water quality, the condition of the lake bottom, waterfront safety, and wildlife concerns. According to the Unit Management Plan published in December 2016, strategies for dealing with the geese may include minimizing mowing to discourage use of the property by geese, which prefer short grass; fencing; and removal of resident geese from the population. Funding for the feasibility study is currently under review. The study will also determine the timetable for reopening the swimming beach, and Rosenbach said, “DEC is focused on ensuring this is completed quickly.”
Woodstock supervisor Bill McKenna, who attended the ribbon-cutting for the recent improvements, said he speaks to the DEC regularly to “express my great desire and hope they will have swimming there in the next year or two. They realize it’s important for Woodstock, since our swimming holes have been inundated by the public. Landowners used to be agreeable to allowing people to swim, but they are being overwhelmed. A lot of Woodstockers grew up swimming there [at Wilson], and there’s a great number of people who are eager to see it reopened.”
The campground, located at 859 Wittenberg Road, offers 76 camping sites, canoe and kayak rentals, a picnic area, fishing in the lake, and hiking trails.