Next time you’re on a tasting tour of the spring waters at the Saratoga Spa State Park, you might have to add one more stop to your itinerary. The park is getting a new spring—well, actually, one organization is working to help the city rediscover an old spring, which currently spouts from the pond at the south end of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s (SPAC’s) parking lot.
The organization is the Friends of the Spa State Park, whose mission it is to preserve and enhance the park for future generations. And the spring in question is Coesa, one of four whose water was bottled and sold at the Hall of Springs back in Saratoga’s healing water heyday. (Don’t confuse the spring with the same-named wellness center that opened in the park’s Roosevelt II building last year.) “In the olden days—like the 18th, 19th centuries—there were springs along Route 50,” says Helene Brecker, president of the Friends of the Spa State Park. “There is still one called Hathorne. People used to drive up what’s now Route 50 and pull over and get their spring water. And Coesa was one of the [springs], but now it’s inaccessible.”
That’s exactly what the Friends are trying to fix, but the process of reviving Coesa is still in its early stages. The Friends teamed up with the Spa State Park to apply for a $75,000 grant through Parks & Trails New York, which will partially cover the cost to clear out the land surrounding Coesa pond, renovate the old spring house (which is in need of treatment for asbestos and mold) and install a fountain that’s a replica of the original as well as interpretive signage. The organizations will know if they were awarded the grant, or at least a portion of it, by June, but either way, will likely need to raise a substantial amount of funds in order to get Coesa back up and running.
Obviously, there are still a lot of question marks, but the good news is that the State Historic Preservation Office has already given the project a preliminary A-OK (since the spring building is a historic structure, it falls under the office’s jurisdiction), and the Friends have already had Coesa tested for potability. But just because it’s safe to drink, doesn’t mean spring-sippers should rush to the spring with their five-gallon jugs in hand. “Coesa was one of the spring waters that people would drink for laxative/digestive treatment,” Brecker says. “So you might fill a quart…but the five-gallon jug? No.” In other words, the water may be potable, but it’s certainly not palatable.
A couple of potential fundraisers for the project are in the works, including a walk/run in late June, so interested parties should stay tuned to the Friends’ website and Facebook. “We’re going to try to get the community involved and just wake people up to a new area in the park, because that’s not a heavily used section,” Brecker says of the south-of-the-SPAC-parking-lot area. After all, “the springs themselves are what made Saratoga Saratoga,” she continues. “If people weren’t getting mineral baths, they wouldn’t have come here.” Today, people have plenty of other reasons to come to the Spa City. But when Coesa reopens, they’ll have one more.