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Higley Flow celebrates groundbreaking for lodge, amenities

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SOUTH COLTON — Higley Flow State Park has never been short on charm, but it lacked adequate amenities to make the park accessible.

That no longer will be the case, thanks to the fundraising efforts of a community group and $500,000 in grants from the state.

On Thursday, the park awash with sun-speckled spring shadows, the Friends of Higley Flow and state officials broke ground on the new Higley Trail Lodge.

“There are jobs created here with the people building this,” said Thomas Alworth, deputy commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “In the end, it improves the visitor experience.”

The lodge will function as an educational center and a warming hut in the winter and will include a sheltered porch, an assembly room and restrooms.

A $60,000 grant through Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council Initiative makes constructing the all-season facility possible.

That was good news for Anthony G. Collins, president of Clarkson University, Potsdam, and chairman of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.

“This is an example of what is occurring throughout the region,” Mr. Collins said. “People wanted something sustainable and something that would provide quality jobs in the region. This money is both advancing tourism and assisting institutions of higher education.”

Construction on a new restroom and shower facility already is in progress, thanks to $300,000 from Mr. Cuomo’s New York Works initiative.

Elsewhere, there are plans for a code-compliant $140,000 playground, also funded through New York Works, which will include 14 pieces of upgraded equipment, a climbing wall and a concrete path to make it wheelchair-accessible.

“This is a win-win-win,” said Douglas Welch, treasurer of the Friends of Higley Flow, a nonprofit support arm of the park. “A win for the users of the park, a win for the district, and a win for Albany and Governor Cuomo.”

More than 40,000 people visit Higley Flow annually, placing it among the busiest state parks in the north country, said Harold B. Johnson II, Thousand Islands Regional Commission chairman with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

“This is an amazing park,” Mr. Johnson said. “It is the highest-winter-use park in the region, and the most utilized camping park.”

The North Country Regional Economic Development Council is one of 10 regional bodies developed by Mr. Cuomo’s administration to fund $785 million in projects, creating regionally cohesive economies around the state.

New York Works, a jobs-creation program, will provide $89 million to rehabilitate and upgrade parks around the state.

The program also targets roads, bridges, water systems, historic sites and flood-control projects with funding as an engine to economic development.

“Governor Cuomo is reinventing economic development,” Mr. Alworth said. “State parks are being recognized as a driver for economic development.”

The Friends of Higley Flow were pleased that their fundraising efforts were successful.

“It expands opportunities for affordable recreation,” member Judy Fuhr said. “There has been a tremendous response from the residents and the community.”

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