Map of the Parks that are owned and maintained by the Village Improvement Society of Saranac Lake since 1910. The parks system was designed by the Olmsted Brothers. The Village of Saranac Lake straddles Essex and Franklin Counties in the Adirondack Mountains.

The Saranac Lake park system was developed by the Olmsted Brothers, the landscape architects who designed Central Park in New York City. In 1907, the Saranac Village Board of Trade hired the Olmsted Brothers to draw up a plan for a parks system, but the plan was rejected by the Village Board because it was costly and it would take commercial property off the Village tax rolls.

In 1910, a group of local women banded together to form the Village Improvement Society of Saranac Lake (VIS), with the goal of fulfilling the Olmsted Brothers’ vision. The Certificate of Incorporation was signed on October 10, 1910 by ten directors: Mary Ives Baldwin, Margaret V. N. Duryee, Alice M. Vosburgh, Lillian C. Wicker, Ida M. Minshull, Marie S. Haase, Mary Sill Palmer, Mabel M. Trowbridge, Adah J. Hallock, and Rosamond P. Roberts.

At the VIS website you can see a detailed timeline/history of the Village parks effort, which is volunteer-powered and is headed by up Paul Smith’s College Professor Randall Swanson. In addition to maintaining the parks, VIS volunteers raise money for and plant flowers around the Village, maintain Veterans Memorials, and give scholarships to one or two DEC Camp Colby participants each summer. VIS is a powerful model of a non-profit approach to parks management, saving taxpayer money and creating meaningful ways of community involvement.

Here’s a look at the parks in the care of VIS: