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Nature Trail At Capital Hills Dedicated

With spring just around the corner, the current mayor of Albany is honoring one of her predecessors in office.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan dedicated the Whalen Way Nature Trail at the Capital Hills at Albany Golf Course to honor Thomas Whalen III, Albany’s 73rd mayor.

During his term from 1983 to 1993, Tom Whalen dedicated himself to elevating the quality of Albany's system of parks. By redesigning the Albany Municipal Golf Course, he made it into one of the finest public golf venues in the area, which now annually hosts the LPGA Symetra Tour.  Mayor Sheehan says Whalen envisioned the land as an all-season outdoor recreational venue where city residents could walk, hike, sled and cross-country ski.  "I think that a lot of people don't realize that in the fall and in the winter this is still a busy place. People come here. They walk their dogs. And that was really the vision that Mayor Whalen had for this place. That it was really a year-round park."

Albany historian and former state Assemblyman Jack McEneny
Credit WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas
Albany historian and former state Assemblyman Jack McEneny.

Albany historian and former state Assemblyman Jack McEneny says Whalen, who died in 2002, always put Albany first.  "The vision saw our unique position as a capital city, and he was very much into the history of the city, the fact that it was unique. He used the tricentennial of the city charter to bring in people from the suburbs who had not gone downtown in years, to rediscover their city, he involved people from the business community, which, frankly was discouraged back in the 70s and 60s federally. But as Reaganomics came, public/private partnerships became mandatory, and he had already had great contacts in the business community. Many of them gave very very graciously to the arts, to this golf course."

Albany County Legislator Andrew Joyce:    "You know the golf course and the resources added to the golf course is just among his legacy. We come here, we'll remember him and his contribution to our city. It's a great way to keep his memory alive."

Before citizens and canines gathered on a blustery Saturday, Mayor Sheehan dedicated the 2.7-mile nature trail, built under Whalen's tenure, and declared the day "Finn McCool the Beloved Dog Day," honoring Whalen's golden retriever. The dog accompanied him each and every day to City Hall.

Mayor Whalen's eldest son, Tom, told the crowd that he is "proud and delighted" to see his father's name affixed to a place in his city that gave him such a great sense of pride and accomplishment.  "My dad was a man of the physical world, really drew a lot of his energy from being outdoors. It's what really fueled his imagination I think, gave him the chance to dream, was that quiet time of walking around, whether it was in the Adirondacks or in Ireland, but especially out here, it really gave him his energy and replenished him."

McEneny says Whalen also made contributions to art and culture.   "The great Whalen expression was, 'It's a great day in Albany.' He was the right man for the right time. We should celebrate his legacy every day."

The "Whalen Way Nature Trail" is just past the New Scotland Avenue bridge over the Thruway.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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