Park Connect: November 2017

Family  walking on trail

November 2017 |  Issue

State Parks Are Free On Black Friday! #OptOutside

family hike

Governor Cuomo is encouraging all to enjoy New York state parks for free on Black Friday, November 24. Visitors can avoid busy shopping centers, long check-out lines and traffic congestion and instead enjoy the more than 335,000 spacious acres of pristine landscape awaiting a family adventure. There will be no parking fee at any State Park on Black Friday.

To celebrate the holidays and the outdoors State Parks offers numerous special events and programs on Black Friday and over the Thanksgiving weekend. For a full list of state park events on Black Friday and over the  holiday weekend please visit and select "Thanksgiving Weekend" on the homepage.  

Heading to a State Park on Black Friday celebrates the #OptOutside movement to spend more time in the great outdoors as an alternative to a hectic retail experience. Read More

Cave of the Winds Ribbon Cutting

Niagara Falls Cave of the Winds Experience Gets Even Better

Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul recently opened a new Niagara Falls Cave of the Winds attraction that highlights Niagara Falls’ significance as the first state park in the nation and site of the first large-scale hydroelectric generating plant.

Part of the revitalization of Niagara Falls State Park, the revamped pavilion features three new experiences. "Drawn to the Edge" presents interactive and virtual exhibits that tell the story of why visitors and innovators came to Niagara Falls and showcases the way beauty and power co-exist. In the "World Changed Here" space, a theatrical film and object theater introduces viewers to famed visionaries such as landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmsted and inventor Nikola Tesla and how their work impacted the world.

Finally, visitors will "Prepare for Power" when they receive a pair of souvenir sandals before descending 175 feet into the Niagara Gorge to the decks of the Cave of the Winds and the Hurricane Deck. When the decks close for the season, this space will offer a video wall where visitors can see the Falls throughout all the seasons.

The facility will also help eliminate long waits through the implementation of timed ticketing.  Read more

Jones Beach Holiday Lights

Holiday Lights Return to Jones Beach

A Long Island holiday tradition has returned with the Magic of Lights at Jones Beach State Park. Once again, Jones Beach will shine bright as guests weave along the spectacular 2.5-mile drive-through holiday lights display. The display runs through Sunday, December 31. A complete schedule and ticket information available at     

Empire Pass Card

Share the fun! Annual Empire Pass On Sale Through March 

The 2018 annual Empire Pass Card is available online for the discounted price of $65 through March 31, 2018.  The wallet-sized plastic card providing unlimited vehicle entry to state parks can be shared among family members including parents, grandparents, caregivers and more. The annual park pass is a cost-effective way to enjoy the more than 250 individual state parks, historic sites, recreational trails, boat launches and more. Gift orders should be placed by Friday December 8 to ensure delivery in time for the holidays. After the sale, the Empire Pass Card will be available for its regular price of $80. Read more

Outdoor recreation

New York State Parks Support Local Jobs and Businesses

New York State Parks and Historic Sites are known as great places to visit. But a new independent study found they’re also great for the economy.  The study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts found that the New York State Park System and its visitors generated spending of about $5 billion, which supported nearly 54,000 jobs within the state and over $2.8 billion in additional state GDP. In short, each dollar of state funding supported 9 dollars of sales throughout New York State. Read more

Buffalo Harbor Press Event

Buffalo Harbor State Park Transformation is Complete

Governor Cuomo recently declared the transformation of Buffalo’s Outer Harbor into New York State’s newest state park is now complete. New York State purchased the once neglected property in 2013 and immediately invested $15 million to remediate a brownfield and transform 190 acres into a vibrant state park. Buffalo Harbor State Park features paved walking and bike paths, a new great-lawn with beautiful vistas of Lake Erie and the Harbor, open air picnic pavilions, a nautically themed playground, sled-riding hill, stage area for live music and movies in the park, fishing platforms and improved boating facilities. Today, more than 240,000 people visit the park annually. Read more

Tim O'Keefe

Behind the Scenery with Tim O’Keefe

Park Supervisor 2, Allegany State Park/Red House Area

How long have you been with the agency?
I began my career in Parks in May of 2004.

What does someone in your position do?  I oversee a four-season camping operation that offers everything from cabin/cottage rentals, to hiking, mountain biking, and swimming in the summer, to skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing in the winter months. My role is one of a choreographer, as well as a supervisor.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever seen or done? Occasionally I get to lead a group of people on a guided hike through the woods. It’s a nice diversion from my daily responsibilities, and and a great way to interact with the Park’s patrons.

Is there a destination in the park/region you’d recommend to someone? Snowshoeing on Beehunter hiking trail after a fresh snowfall. It’s both peaceful and challenging at the same time.

What inspired you to work in the park system? My siblings brought me camping in Allegany back in the late 70’s. It planted a seed inside of me that continues to grow. 

First Day Hike Logo

Save the Date: First Day Hikes on January 1

Kick off the New Year in the outdoors! First Day Hikes will be held January 1, 2018 at select NY state parks, historic sites, state forests and nature centers. 

Find a hike near you on the events calendar at  More being added each week! 

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