ROMULUS — What a difference a year makes.

The marina at Sampson State Park — constructed in the 1960s — had crumbling concrete, questionable electrical service, a handful of boat slips in use and the look of years of neglect.

Wednesday, the “new’’ Sampson marina was officially reopened showcasing a unique public-private partnership between the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Sessler Companies of Waterloo, an excavating and wrecking company that has expanded its business interests in recent years.

In a ceremony adjacent to the new marina on the east shore of Seneca Lake, a site where the Navy trained more than 400,000 recruits for World War II because of the nearly 700-foot depth of the lake, a crowd gathered to view the amazing transformation.

“This is an incredible achievement. Anyone here a year ago will agree that this is quite a difference,” {span}said Fred Bonn, regional director of the Finger Lakes State Parks Commission.{/span} “To say this marina was tired would be kind. It’s amazing to see after only eight months.”

“Now we are well on our way to having Sampson become a wonderful destination site for visitors to connect to Seneca Lake.”

Eric Kulleseid, state parks and recreation commissioner since February, said numerous people and agencies worked together to make the project a reality. He cited Gov. Andrew Cuomo, local state lawmakers State Senators Pam Helming and Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, a host of state agencies and the Sesslers.

“Ten years ago, the state was talking of closing state parks. The governor and others decided they wanted to stop that talk and injected $1 billion into the state parks. Last year, the parks had 74 million visitors, up 20 million from eight years ago,” Kulleseid said. “These upgrades to Sampson will keep that trend going.”

Helming, who helped secure a $1.5 million grant for the Canal Corporation to jumpstart the project, said she’s always been a “passionate advocate for natural resources and our lakes.”

“If anything can be done to help a good project, the Sesslers will be there. They are synonymous with getting things done,” Helming said.

Craig Sessler, one of three siblings who owns and operates the Sessler Companies, also praised a host of people for making the project come true.

“We put together a great team to get this done in a short time,” Sessler said.

He said the marina now has new boat slips, new docks, a kayak launching site, a boat launch, jet ski docking, fully ADA compliant infrastructure, a fueling station, a ship’s store, concession stand and access to nearby cabins.

The marina also will host a research vessel from the Champlain Maritime Museum in Vermont. Museum officials are locating numerous shipwrecks at the bottom of the lake going back to the 1840s when the lake was a key part of the state canal shipping system.

“We found eight shipwrecks yesterday,” said Art Cohn of the museum. “That was extraordinary and we want to share it with people.”

The $7.5 million public-private partnership not only rehabilitated the aging marina, but calls for future work to create a long-term campground in an under-utilized area of the 2,000-acre park. State Parks awarded a 40-year lease to SamSen, a limited liability corporation created by the Sesslers, to operate and be responsible for capital improvements to both Sampson and nearby Seneca Lake State Park marinas. As part of the agreement, SamSen will invest at least $1.5 million, combined with $2.5 million in state funds.

SamSen also can make future investments to develop and operate a long-term recreational vehicle campground, cabin rentals and boat rentals at both state parks.

Recommended for you