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Knox Farm Park joins 'Seven to Save' list Increased funding, visibility expected

Knox Farm State Park has been a nature refuge and recreational destination since the 633 acres of pastures, wetlands, meadows and woodlands opened to the public 10 years ago.

But the onetime East Aurora summer haven of brothers Seymour Jr. and Northrup Knox has fallen on tough times and shows signs of deterioration.

As a result, the Preservation League of New York State on Thursday will add the state park to its "Seven to Save" list, a compilation of the state's most-threatened historic places. Presence on the list helps bring greater visibility to the landmarks and has helped lead to new funding.

"Knox Farm State Park is best known for active and passive recreational opportunities, which include walking, cross-country skiing, soccer playing or just quiet contemplation. However, its 21 buildings, constructed between the 1860s and the 1940s, are hiding in plain sight," said Tania Werbitzky, the league's regional director for technical and grant programs in the Southern Tier and Western New York.

"By highlighting them, we hope to bring greater visibility to the challenges and opportunities to their continued existence and, ultimately, reuse."

What's happening to Knox Farm State Park is emblematic of the challenges facing many state parks and historic sites across New York State due to limited funds, Werbitzky said.

More maintenance, stabilization and rehabilitation was needed throughout the park, which includes a 26-room estate, barns, stables and greenhouse, she said. A master plan for continued stewardship of the park, including the buildings, was necessary for the long term, she added.

"On behalf of the Friends of Knox Farm State Park, I am honored and enormously grateful for the Preservation League's help in bringing increased attention to this park and its many important but underutilized buildings," said Seymour Knox IV, president of the nonprofit group.

Friends of Knox Farm State Park foresee a number of privately operated uses for the 14,400-square-foot house and 10-room guesthouse, including weddings, a bed-and-breakfast, a conference center, a retreat and a Knox family museum. Leasing the stables and greenhouse, as well as some of the open space for farming or other purposes, has also been discussed.

Betsy Wallace, a board member with the volunteer group, said she was "thrilled" by the designation.

"I'm thankful to the league and excited about what it might mean in terms of saving and preserving the historic integrity of the park's buildings," Wallace said.