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Group Dedicated To Restoring Saratoga's Forgotten Springs

“This is the Karista Spring. Cheers!”

Steve Miller will tell you that each well in Saratoga Springs has its own taste and its own sound. Miller is president of the Friends of Saratoga Spa State Park, which has been working within the community to breathe new life into the springs that were all the rage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Karista Spring, which pours mineral water into a basin, is located underneath a 1920s-style pavilion that was constructed just a few years ago.

“As we  look at the different springs, we’re trying to identify what can be done to restore and what style. Do we want to pavilions? Or, what’s going to be the venue around them?” 

A short walk from the Karista Spring, beside a playground and picnic tables, is a backhoe and orange fencing obscuring what appears to be a rusty pipe sticking out of the ground.

It’s a well, what was once known as Schonts #3, drilled by and named after Zachariah Schonts, the owner of the property in the 1920s.

“Well, there’s a number of these wells that are capped and you can’t even see the well caps anymore because they’re covered over. This well casing goes down well over 200 feet,” said Miller.

This well stopped flowing in the 1950s.

As Miller explains, a park worker begins to unload sections of a new pipe that will be inserted into the old well casing. Friends member Phil Henzel says they’re hoping to guide the water at the bottom of the well up through the new pipe that is free of leaks.

“Once we trap the gas pressure, naturally, the gas pressure is going to push the water up into a spouter. That’s what we’re shooting for,” said Henzel.

Although it is yet to be dedicated, the Ferndell Spring is the Friends’ latest well restoration. With a new granite basin, it looks as it did 80 years ago. This spring is gravity fed and has very little mineral taste to it. It was once bottled and sold by a nearby plant.

“The bottling plant, we think, we have a high confidence, was located up on the flats aboive here. And so they eventually drilled other Ferndell wells to supply the bottling plant and this was once sold as Ferndell soft-sweet water,” said Miller.

And there are several other projects that are on the Friends’ list. Alli Schweizer, environmental educator at the Saratoga Spa State Park, said the group’s assistance and dedication is invaluable.

“What these people do is incredible. It’s so important. They dedicate their time as volunteers to preserve our springs for future generations. You can’t put a number on that,” said Schweizer.

Miller said between the park staff, volunteers, and donors, everything comes down to one thing.

“It’s all about partnership and we’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” said Miller.

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Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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