We decided to take a trip to Saratoga Springs in upstate New York. It was a chance to see the beautiful fall foliage, the leaves turning vivid yellow, orange, and red. The real goal was to visit a small kayak manufacturer that makes a kayak of Kevlar that weighs only 15 pounds. We’re going to see if it’s just right for my next birthday.

As we were driving along the Taconic State Parkway, where traffic was almost non-existent, we drove past a sign that said DONALD J. TRUMP STATE PARK. I’ve never heard of a state park named for a living person. Curious, I googled and discovered that the “state park” was a tax dodge. Trump bought over 400 acres for $2.5 million with the intent of turning it into a golf course. when he couldn’t get permits to build his golf course, he gave the land to the state for a “state park” named for himself and took a $100 million tax write off! He paid $2.5 million, found the property had no profit potential, and claimed the property was worth $100 million. How’s that for chutzpah?

From Wikipedia:

The park consists of property that was donated to New York State in 2006 by developer Donald Trump. Maintenance of the park was halted in 2010 due to budget constraints, and the park remains largely undeveloped. Most of the buildings have been demolished; only a few foundations and the existing tennis court remain. There have been several calls to rename the park.

History

Trump purchased the property in 1998 with plans to build a $10 million private golf course. Totalling $2.5 million, it was purchased in two sections: Indian Hill for $1.75 million and French Hill for $750,000. The land contained significant wetlands and development faced strict environmental restrictions and permitting requirements. He donated it in 2006 after he was unable to gain town approvals to develop the property. At that time Trump claimed the parcel was worth $100 million. He used the donation as a tax write-off. The donation was praised by governor George Pataki. Trump said, “I hope that these 436 acres of property will turn into one of the most beautiful parks anywhere in the world.”

New York State announced the park’s closure due to budget cuts in February 2010. It was questioned whether the closure was necessary since the operating budget for the park was only $2,500 a year and it was maintained by workers from the nearby Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park. Although Trump threatened to take the parkland back after the closure was announced,[2] the land remains in the control of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

An attempt to convert a portion of the park’s French Hill section for use as a dog park in 2010 revealed that at least one of the park’s abandoned buildings contained asbestos. By 2012, the planned dog park remained on hold due to difficulties raising funds for fences and asbestos abatement.

The park is not listed at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation park locator, although signs along the nearby Taconic State Parkway direct visitors to Donald J. Trump State Park. During a 2015 visit by The Rachel Maddow Show, there were no signs of any recent upkeep; instead, the publicly accessible land was found to contain crumbling graffiti-covered buildings, empty map kiosks, and weed-choked parking lots.

In 2017, an article on website The A.V. Club framed the park as an “abandoned wasteland”, with “muddy fields, overgrown tennis courts, and dilapidated buildings” and a swimming pool in disrepair.

Park access improvements including an asphalt driveway, gravel parking lot, entrance gates, wood fencing, and native tree and shrub plantings were noticed in 2020.