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Park needs help; Spot on 'Seven to Save' list boosts chances of restoring Knox Farm

The addition of Knox Farm State Park to a state preservation organization's list of "Seven to Save" has helped spotlight the poor condition of the buildings and grounds and should push the state to live up to its responsibility to the park.

New York State purchased the East Aurora property back in 2000 for $5.1 million. The 633-acre park is ideal for equestrians, hikers, bird watchers and anyone else who wants to enjoy its pastoral beauty. But it's also become unkempt.

The park includes a 26-room estate, barns, stables and greenhouse, all badly in need of maintenance, stabilization and rehabilitation.

The Preservation League of New York State is trying to change that by adding Knox Farm to its "Seven to Save" list, the league's compilation of the state's most threatened historic places.

The action should result in higher visibility for the park's problems and, hopefully, bring more attention from the state. Assistance, where possible, also should come from the Town of Aurora and Village of East Aurora in the way of equipment, labor and materials. The group Friends of Knox Farm State Park has done much good work, but there is much more that could be done.

The push to better serve Knox Farm State Park starts with the state itself, and the governor's renewed focus on the state park system should help.

The league's designation ought to provide a renewed push to the much discussed public-private partnerships that could generate revenue for park maintenance.

The league's regional director for technical and grant programs in the Southern Tier and Western New York offered some hope that the 21 buildings, constructed between the 1860s and the 1940s, might ultimately find reuse.

Friends of Knox Farm State Park is on the right track in envisioning a number of privately operated uses for the 14,400-square-foot main house and 10-room guest house on the property. Possible uses range from weddings, a bed-and-breakfast, a conference center, a retreat and a Knox family museum. Other ideas include leasing the stables and greenhouse, and leasing open space for farming.

These ambitious ideas could use a larger corps of volunteers to help with upkeep and increase fundraising efforts and community involvement. The park's spot on the "Seven to Save" list is just a push in the right direction.