Back in 1997, Mrs. Mary Cleland began the thought with an ice rink near Caroga Lake, which was supported by the community, called Wilderness, Inc. though the funding never came forward.

In 2017, Mrs. Cleland gave Mr. Timothy Rizzo her documents. In 2021, Mr. Rizzo submitted a report to Congresswoman Elise Stefanik with a new vision. It was greatly supported and transferred to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for funding request. Both elected officials support the project and it was short listed for funding by the US Government.

Since then, the Upstate Ice Plex has been created and moving forward while coordinating with federal and state programs.




Below is an article that was published in The Recorder newspaper in Amsterdam in 1998. It is a great representation of the original vision of Mrs. Cleland and how the idea behind the Upstate Ice Plex came to be. The article was entitled, “A Good Skate”, and was written by Gina Barletta of the Recorder News Staff.

Mary Jean Cleland, a retired teacher from Johnstown, describes her visions of an Olympic-sized skating rink and adjacent nature trails. 

CAROGA LAKE – Someday soon, Mary Jean Cleland hopes, children throughout the area will be able to have a place to ice skate and enjoy nature year-round in Fulton County.

Cleland, a retired Gloversville School District art teacher and owner of Timberlane Blueberry Farms in Caroga, donated nearly 60 acres of land to a not-for-profit corporation called Wilderness Inc. on which to build a facility to house an Olympic sized – 100 feet wide by 200 feet long – ice skating arena.

Her idea for the arena stemmed from her observation about four years ago that while there were a number of ski resorts in the area, there was no local place for children to ice skate. She discussed with her neighbors and friends the idea of constructing an arena on unused land of Route 10A adjacent to state-owned, forever-wild property, and their support helped fuel her enthusiasm.

Wilderness, Inc. was created solely to manage the arena and conducted a need survey several months ago throughout the four-county region of Fulton, Montgomery, Hamilton, and Otsego counties.

“We sent surveys to all the schools, including the Greater Amsterdam School District,” Cleland said. “We would like to make ice sports available to children around the region.”

Ice time would be available to the general public as well as to teams and coaches.

The project overview calls for a large, multi-purpose room overlooking a nearby pond, appropriate for meetings from birthday parties to conferences.

The facility, according to Cleland’s vision, would serve as a springboard for the creativity of it’s patrons.

“I’m here to see it built,” she said. “Hopefully, people will come here with wonderful ideas and programs for the kids and for the community.”

Outside the building, the 58 acres surrounding the arena will be developed and landscaped into marked nature trails, with assistance from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Those trails would serve both as educational walking trails in the warmer months and cross country skiing trails in the snow season.

Cleland said the she would be interested in pursing the idea of heating the arena by using gaseous emissions from the Fulton County landfill located on Mud Road, but the cost of purchasing and laying down the pipework may be prohibitive.

Wilderness’s Board of Directors is in the process of raising $2.2 million from available state and economic development grants. Assistance from neighbors and friends of the project is also appreciated, Cleland said.

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