News from State Parks, June 2019

Learn to Swim class

June 2019, Issue 54

Roberto Clemente State Park

$100 million Transformation of Roberto Clemente State Park

In June, Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx capped off an eight-year, $100 million renewal project along the Harlem River.

Work included $46 million on improvement of waterfront access with a rebuilt esplanade, new lower plaza and steel bulkhead, a new performance area, and a shared pathway for walkers, hikers and bicyclists. The project was designed to be more resilient to potential damage caused by extreme storms and flooding.

Another $7 million was spent on rebuilding the park’s upper plaza gateway and for relocation of the life-sized statue of Clemente, a native of Puerto Rico who went on to star with the Pittsburgh Pirates professional baseball team, closer to the park’s entrance.

Two synthetic turf ballfields, as well as a grass turf field, were also rebuilt, which will allow the park to expand its programs for youth baseball and softball.

Former New York Yankees star Alex Rodriquez helped fund this $8.6 million project, which was also supported by funding from Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball Players Association, and grants from the federal, state, city and borough governments.  Learn more.

Group photo at Thacher Park

Commissioner Kulleseid Welcomes LGBTQ Visitors with Pride Flag Raising at State Parks 

In June, Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid raised the first pride flag for State Parks at Thacher State Park for a state commemoration of Pride Month, WorldPride 2019 and the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. During the month, the rainbow pride flags will be flown at other select parks, with special events also planned that celebrate the LGBTQ community. Visitors were encouraged to share their best park moments on social media using the hashtag #PrideOutsideNY

A schedule of Pride events in State Parks can be found at

Swim instruction

Learn to Swim Program Readies for Summer 

Enrollment for the Learn-to-Swim program for children is open at a number of New York State parks. Participants' parents are asked to sign up ahead of time as space is limited and expected to fill up quickly. Each swim program is 30 to 45 minutes in duration and participants who enroll in these lessons will receive a Red Cross Learn-to-Swim Achievement Booklet and a State Parks Learn-to-Swim prize at the conclusion of the program. Programs are free and pre-registration is required. For more information on locations, schedules and registration, visit Learn-to-Swim.

School group at Letchworth State Park

Connect Kids to Parks Climbs to 200,000 Visitors 

The New York State Connect Kids to Parks program, which encourages public school students to visit state parks marked the arrival of its 200,000th public school student during a May trip by Buffalo students to Letchworth State Park. The New York State Connect Kids to Parks Field Trip Grant Program, which provides eligible school districts with up to $1,000 to pay for visits to state facilities, has funded more than 5,000 field trips since 2016.

Applications for the fourth year of the program were released June 1.
Learn more.

NY State Park Police at Saratoga Spa State Park

New Class of Park Police Officers Graduates

In April, New York State Parks welcomed 39 graduates from the 16th Basic School of the State Parks Police Academy. 

The recent graduates completed a six-month residential training program at the academy in Rensselaerville, Albany County, where training included criminal procedure law, investigative techniques, firearms use, and the operation of snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and emergency vehicles. 

In addition, the new officers will also complete a ten-week field training program under the supervision of senior officers before they can be assigned to active duty across the state. 

Park Police are responsible for protecting 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more. Learn more.

Niagara River Gorge

Fight Against Invasive Species at Niagara Falls Gorge

In late May, work continued to replace invasive plants with native plants along the seven-mile Niagara River Gorge below Niagara Falls.

The $950,000, second phase of the “Restore the Gorge” project focuses on about 48 acres of steep terrain that begins at the base of the American Falls and continues downriver to the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.

A partner in the project, the Land Conservancy, has hired workers who will remove harmful species like Norway maple, common buckthorn, tree-of-heaven, and phragmites. Those will be replaced with native species like red oak, ninebark shrubs and Canada anemone.

The now-completed first phase of the project covered 37 acres in the gorge, which contains extremely powerful river rapids with names like Devil’s Hole and Whirlpool. Learn more. 

camping guide cover

The 2019 Camping Guide is Here!

The new digital 2019 NYS Camping Guide is now available. This user-friendly guide is the perfect sidekick for helping you plan your next overnight getaway. Whether you enjoy camping in a tent, RV, cabin or cottage, New York State has a variety of campgrounds to choose from. The guide also notes which campgrounds offer activities such as swimming, hiking, boating, and more.

New for 2019, this year’s camping guide features new cottages at Heckscher and Wildwood State Parks on Long Island. While reading through the guide, you’ll also come across many of the amazing images that were submitted to our recent photo contest. Use the digital guide to start planning your next outdoor adventure today!

Women in canoe

Behind the Scenery with Gaby Cebada Mora – Environmental Analyst

How long have you been working with the agency? I began working on Long Island as the Beach Water Quality Monitor in 2010. In 2012, I moved to Albany and began working in the Water Quality Unit before transitioning to an Ecologist position working on Ocean and Great Lakes projects. Now, I am an Environmental Analyst with the agency.

What does someone in your position do? I review capital and natural resource projects and help ensure compliance with state and federal requirements while also promoting stewardship of our environment. I work within our agency and across other agencies, as well as the public, consultants, educational institutions and non-profit, NGOs and friends’ groups. Also, our unit oversees guidance, monitoring and reporting for our bathing beaches; provides guidance for Harmful Algal Blooms; collects water chemistry data; and conducts aquatic plant surveys and helps manage invasive species.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever seen or done? I’ve worked in some pretty spectacular locations and it has really opened my eyes to the incredible places that make up our state. I've collected water samples on the St. Lawrence, surveyed for eel grass at parks on Long Island, snowshoed and used ATVs to access remote sample sites. One experience that stands out is a mycelium project at Lake Erie State Park to help improve water quality. We installed a mycelium (mushroom-based) filtration system on a creek to reduce elevated levels of E. coli, a dangerous bacterium that was coming from non-point sources in the watershed.

Is there a destination in the park/region you’d recommend to someone? They are all unique, beautiful environments that have so much to offer, with incredible staff that do an amazing job balancing recreation and environmental stewardship. Growing up on Long Island and loving water I have to say that ocean parks are my favorite, particularly Orient Beach State Park.  

What inspired you to work/volunteer in the park system? I have a background in resource management and conservation with a focus on water resources and climate change. I greatly enjoy the opportunities and diversity of the work that State Parks offers and have the pleasure of working with an incredible group of fun and dedicated co-workers. The opportunity to connect people to nature, through environmental education and recreational opportunities while also directly ensuring the health and well-being of our ecosystems is challenging and inspiring work that I am proud to be a part of.