Park Connect, November 2016

November 2016, Issue 33

Connect Kids

New Grant Program Connects School Children to Parks and Historic Sites

Visiting a state park can help expand children’s horizons. That’s why New York State is offering state grants to public schools throughout New York State to fund field trips to state parks and historic sites for environmental, history and physical education programming.

The Connect Kids to Parks Transportation Grant program is available to Kindergarten-12th grade classes in Title 1 public schools. The grant application is reviewed on a rolling basis for field trips anytime in the 2016-17 school year. For more information visit or e-mail

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Construction begins on $3.2 million Grafton Lakes State Park Center

Construction has begun on a 5,000-square-foot facility to provide a new year-round gathering space for educational, recreational and volunteer programming in the heart of the Grafton Lakes State Park.

Grafton Lakes in the Capital Region is a great place for families to gain a first-hand connection to nature. The new facility will help inspire the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts by creating new activity space to enhance the park’s environmental education, offer exhibits on the ecology of the park, and provide an outdoor terraced seating area. Read More

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Cabin Fever!

Book 2 nights & get the 3rd FREE on cabin stays now through Dec. 31, 2016. Use Promo code: COZYCABIN16 at checkout. Locations: Letchworth, Allegany, Wellesley Island and Taconic State Parks. Offer is not valid on existing reservations and excludes cottages. Learn More

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Alternative to traditional camping coming to Sampson State Park

"The Cottages at Sampson" will create 10 new vacation cottages providing quality, affordable lakefront accommodations on the shore of Seneca Lake.

The modern rustic Cottages at Sampson will feature both one- and two-bedroom units, as well as a bathroom, kitchenette, covered outdoor deck and comfortable furnishings and lighting. The lakefront cottages will feature dramatic sunset views. Construction is expected to be complete next fall. Cottages will be available for rental from May thru October each year.

The $2.9 million project is funded by Governor Cuomo's NY Parks 2020 initiative, a multi-year commitment to revitalize State Parks.  

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First Day Hikes on Jan. 1

Start the New Year off in the outdoors with a First Day Hike!  Join in the family fun on Jan. 1 and find a hike at a state park or historic site near you.  Seal walks, nature detectives, pet-friendly treks, gorge walks, history tours and more are being offered.  This past year NY welcomed 2,900 people for First Day Hikes at 38+ locations.  Hikes are being added daily- at

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Find Your Fit at New York State Parks!  #GetFitNYS


Spend time with family and friends this holiday season and keep fit by exploring New York State Parks together. Get your pulse running and join us at Nissequogue River State Park for their 9th Annual 5K Run/Walk & 1K Turkey Trot for kids on Thurs. Nov. 24th. Continue your holiday exploration by participating in one of Minnewaska State Park’s hikes. Buttermilk Falls State Park will be offering a 3.5 mile “First Saturday Hike”on Dec. 3rd or explore Connetquot River State Park with a 3-4 mile nature hike. State Parks provides countless ways to stay active and exercise - no matter your age or fitness level. For a complete listing of upcoming events, visit #GetFitNYS. 

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Swap the Shopping Carts for the Great Outdoors: State Parks are FREE on Black Friday! #OptOutside 


New York State Parks are waiving the vehicle entry fee for Black Friday, November 25, so why not get outside and enjoy? As an alternative to busy shopping centers, parks across the state are offering special events and programs – including the ‘Buy Nothing Day’ that allow visitors to recycle and repurposes items into gifts, the Thanksgiving Walk Off and even a surprise visit from Santa on Black Friday that’s sure to excite.

Check out our event line-up for Black Friday and the Thanksgiving holiday weekend: Event Calendar

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Record Camping Attendance for Fifth Straight Year


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced that State Park campgrounds set a new record for attendance for the fifth consecutive year. Through Columbus Day, campsites, cabins and cottages across the state were occupied for more than 633,000 nights, surpassing 2015's record of 623,891 nights. 

State Park camping occupancy has climbed steadily in recent years, rising every year from almost 542,000 overnight stays in 2011 to 633,000 so far this year. Reservations are accepted up to nine months in advance of the planned arrival date. Visit ReserveAmerica or call toll free 1-800-456-CAMP

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Kayak Launching Just Got Easier

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Newly designed docks that make it easier for people with disabilities or physical challenges to launch kayaks and canoes are being installed at New York State Parks. The first launch was installed at Green Lakes State Park in Fayetteville and others will soon be installed at Buffalo Harbor State Park, as well as at Seneca Lake State Park in Geneva and Wellesley Island State Park near Alexandria Bay. State Parks will work to expand their availability at popular paddling destinations in the coming seasons. Read more.

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Buffalo Harbor State Park Offers Scenic New Spot to Enjoy Lake Erie


State Parks has completed $3.76 million project that provides unprecedented access to Lake Erie. A rehabilitated breakwall includes paved walking and bike paths, shaded seating areas, and a fishing platform. The next phase of improvements, now underway, will include a boat launch and redesigned road and parking to improve traffic flow for park users and boaters. Buffalo Harbor State Park, the first State Park in Buffalo, is part of Governor Cuomo’s strategy to reinvigorate the city’s waterfront. Read More

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Explore the Finger Lakes' Newest Trail 

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The Black Diamond Trail connecting Taughannock Falls State Park to the City of Ithaca waterfront is now open.

The completed 8.5-mile trail, safely removed from automobile traffic, features a scenic view of Cayuga Lake. Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul recently joined state representatives, park officials and trail users for a ceremonial bicycle ride on the trail.

Named after the Black Diamond Express passenger train, the trail on an abandoned railroad line was first envisioned in the early 1970s and will eventually span 12 miles from Taughannock Falls State Park to Robert Treman State Park. Read More.

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Behind the Scenery

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Alvin Walker, Rachel Bowman and Bobbie DePillo are Parks employees from the Finger Lakes region who took part in a two-year carpentry program in partnership with their union, CSEA. They received classroom instruction and practical hands-on experience.  All of them are excited to learn more skills, enjoy the company of their co-workers and make a career working for New York State Parks.

How long have you been with the agency?  Alvin – 10 years; Rachel – 7 years; and Bobbie - 10 years.

What does someone in your position do? Rachel Bowman –  I’ve enjoyed being a trades assistant and gotten a chance to work with painters, licensed electricians, plumbing… and had an opportunity to learn new skills.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen? Bobbie –   Getting a chance to check out Watkins Glen State Park in the winter, all the frozen waterfalls and ice are incredible! Most people only visit the park during the summer or fall but it’s an entirely different park in winter.

What inspired you to work in the park system? Alvin Walker – For me it was really simple.  I studied Environmental Science and the chance to work for Parks was a great opportunity. 

Photo: Alvin Walker and Rachel Bowman of the Finger Lakes regional staff