WILTON — The Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park received some major support from Stewart’s Shops and the Dake family on Friday, with a donation of $100,000 to aid in the transformation of Camp Saratoga from a former Boy Scout camp to the Larry Gordon Outdoor Education Center.
Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park is working to transform the camp into a year-round outdoor education center, named after Larry Gordon, longtime director of the Saratoga County Planning Board who was dedicated to protecting and supporting the camp.
Gordon was also on the Board of Directors for Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Parks, served as committee chair for the Town of Wilton Open Space, Recreation and Trails Plan, and participated in a wide variety of volunteer work. He was a life member of the Greenfield Fire Department, served 35 years as a fire warden for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and was appointed to the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Commission.
Gordon also visited Camp Saratoga as a Boy Scout, and went on to serve 20 years on the executive board of the Saratoga County Council and Twin Rivers Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
“These funds will help Larry’s vision well into the future,” said Town of Wilton Supervisor John Lant. “I want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Dake for their very, very generous donation to the project. I want to thank all those involved in making this happen.”
“I want to express our deepest appreciation for the incredible generosity shown by Stewart’s Shops and the Dake family with this donation for the Larry Gordon Outdoor Education Center at the Town of Wilton’s Camp Saratoga,” said Matthew Miczek, Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park Co-Chair. “We are proud to have Larry Gordon’s name attached to this project, a man many of us personally knew and enjoyed gathering with. Larry spent a great deal of his life protecting, enhancing, and promoting conservation of these great lands here at Camp Saratoga, and throughout the county.”
Miczek said the funds will help expand programs and services, and help Wilton Wildlife reach more people. He said the project will begin by transforming the Boy Scout Health Lodge into a welcome center for the park.
Other phases will include renovations of the Ranger Cabin to both a nature center and display center for Gordon’s collection of Scout memorabilia, and renovations of the Winter Lodge to a multi-purpose classroom. Miczek said the Town of Wilton’s grounds maintenance team will handle renovations on the property.
The renovations will allow for the Larry Gordon Education Center to become a year-round facility with permanent locations for its educational offerings. The Education Center will host exhibits on plants, animals, the ecology of the Saratoga Sandplains, and on the human history of the area.
Gordon’s collection will contain a variety of documents and materials showcasing the history of scouting within Saratoga County.
The camp currently has trails, pavilions, restrooms, and camping facilities. It is located in the nearly 2,400-acre Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, and has access to over 25 miles of trails.
Trish Watkins, Gordon’s wife, spoke of his love for the park and his work there, saying he would often greet new visitors to the park and attempt to establish a connection with them.
“If I told you that Larry came down to this parking lot at least 10 times every day, I would not be exaggerating,” said Watkins. “He was a self-appointed one-man welcome committee. … (Larry) came here as a youth, as a scout, so it held a very special place in his heart. He wanted others to be able to enjoy that same special memory that he had.”
Bill Dake, Chairman of Stewart’s Shops, spoke of his time serving on the Saratoga County Planning Board with Gordon, saying he often went above and beyond at his job as the Saratoga County Planner. Gordon spent 33 years as director of the county’s Planning Board.
“When he came and started working on this area, which was his true love, he had all these assets and tricks and ideas and contacts that he had,” Dake said. “We’re here today because of those, I believe. … This was really Larry’s love. Please, keep in mind what an asset he has given us. Let’s appreciate it.”