News‎ > ‎

Boaters, campers work to keep park open

posted Nov 24, 2013, 10:26 AM by Don Kloeber

Elmira Star-Gazette Sunday Sept 11, 2011  Town and Country:
Boaters, campers work to keep park open

Yvonne Drake, of Big Flats, eagerly makes the hour-plus drive to Sampson State Park on Seneca Lake many times during the summer.  So Drake was upset to learn that the marina at Sampson, where she and her husband rent a boat slip, needs major repairs and could be in jeopardy of closing.  It's a move that would affect quite a few people from the Twin Tiers, Drake said."There are other people from Chemung County that I know of. They still travel from Pennsylvania to Sampson," she said."Some travel two or three hours each weekend. Some have been in the marina over 20 years. It's really that good of a place to be. They feel it's worth the travel."

Sampson State Park near Romulus is among several facilities the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation identified as needing major capital investment.  The problem is the state doesn't have nearly enough money to go around, leaving the future of the popular marina in doubt.  A consultant study identified between $2.5 million and $5 million in repairs that need to be done to the marina, said Jeff McDonald, regional capital facilities manager.  For much of the needed work, the state would have to put a dam across the mouth of the marina and empty it, said Tim Joseph, state parks regional director.  "Once you do that, you might as well do everything that needs to be done," Joseph said.  "Once we get a new design with hopefully a lower price tag, we'll start talking about how we are going to get the money to do this.  "We certainly think it's worthwhile to figure out how to keep it open. It's a great public amenity," he said.  "A lot of people do use it. It's the only marina right on the lake. Others are set back up a canal or creek or something. It brings in tourism revenue both to the park and to local communities. It doesn't bring in enough to pay for itself, and that's in the nature of park facilities."

At 2,000-plus acres, Sampson State Park is the largest state park in the Finger Lakes region and features more than 300 campsites and a 103-slip multi-use marina.  Last year, a group called the Friends of Sampson Marina Committee circulated petitions seeking support for keeping the marina open and fixing it up.  The committee collected about 1,000 signatures, with nearly 25 percent coming from the Elmira-Corning area, according to Don Kloeber of Horseheads, co-chair of the group.

"A number of slips are already condemned that are not usable because of low water and obstructions. The second major issue is structural on almost all docks. The steel supports are corroded away," Kloeber said.  "It really needs to be shut down, dredged and started over. It's a significant investment. But it's almost 50 years old. Our feeling is, its time to reinvest and rejuvenate."  The committee is willing to work with the state to write grant applications and look for alternate funding sources, and also urges residents to contact their state legislators about the issue.  Even though the marina doesn't entirely pay for itself, it's a very worthwhile investment, Kloeber said.  "We want to make sure they understand the magnitude of the impact on both campers and boaters," he said.  "Just from boaters, 75 percent occupancy brings in over $100,000 in revenue immediately, but about $350,000 to $500,000 for local businesses.  "They collected revenues for 50 years on that marina and have put essentially nothing back into it," Kloeber said. "That's the unfortunate part."

Jeff Murray is a staff writer for the Star-Gazette. Town and Country appears every Sunday in the local section. If you have any items of interest from suburban and rural Chemung County communities, call Jeff at (607) 271-8251. You can also fax items at (607) 733-4408, or send Jeff an e-mail at