News from NY State Parks

Taughannock Falls State Park @Conmisogos

December 2019  •  Issue 58 

Celebrate Outdoors with First Day Hikes at State Parks, Historic Sites, Wildlife Areas and Public Lands on New Year’s Day

New Yorkers can greet 2020 with a choice of 85 guided hikes at state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas, trails and public lands under the ninth annual First Day Hikes program sponsored by the State Parks and the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

First Day Hikes

Hikes include a variety of events, from seal watches on Long Island along an Atlantic Ocean bay and a bird count in the Capital Region, to hikes to fire towers in the Adirondacks/Catskills, along parts of the historic New York City drinking water system in the Hudson Valley, waterfalls in the Finger Lakes region and historic forts along the Great Lakes.

Hikes are being offered at 55 state parks and historic sites, and at 23 DEC state lands, wildlife areas, Forest Preserve trails and environmental education centers, with some sites offering more than one hike, which range in length from between one and five miles. Hikes will be guided by Parks staff, members of park's Friends Groups, and other volunteers. Learn more

Colored Musicians Club, Historic Preservation Award Winners

Governor Cuomo Announces State Historic Preservation Award Winners

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced ten projects that are preserving state history, ranging from Dutch colonial settlement to the Civil Rights period, have received 2019 State Historic Preservation Awards. Photo Album

Winning projects included renovation of the former TWA terminal at JFK Airport in New York City into a hotel, restoration of an 18th century Dutch Baronial Manor House in Albany County, and the preservation of a jazz club and union headquarters formed in 1917 by African American musicians in Buffalo after being shut of out of membership in a racially-segregated union. 

Also, a dozen historic locations around the state were also nominated for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, which can provide owners with grants and tax credits to support rehabilitation projects. 

Learn about one of the award-winning projects – the restoration of Gaslight Era streetlights in a small village in Wyoming County – in the New York State Parks Blog

Binghamton Pond Festival

Ice Age Coming to Chenango Valley State Park in Southern Tier

Crews at Chenango Valley State Park are setting up what is likely the largest refrigerated outdoor ice rink in North America to host the annual Binghamton Pond Festival, an ice hockey tournament begun in 2016 that has grown to draw youth and adult teams from New York State and beyond.

At 24,200 square feet, this mechanically-generated ice sheet is more than 40 percent larger than the temporary outdoor facilities set up by the National Hockey League, and has helped the four-year-old festival attract adult and youth teams from as far away as California and Texas.

"In addition to creating the wintertime fun, the multi-weekend hockey festival donates money to various youth programs including more than $23,000 so far to fight youth suicide." said Joanne Weir, development director of the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier. The money supports the association’s DFID (Do It For Daron) program, named after a 14-year-old who died by suicide.

Pond Fest starts January 11 at the 1,137-acre park along the Chenango River, which also features sledding and cross-country skiing in the winter. The park’s two lakes – Chenango and Lily – were formed as glaciers retreated at the end of the most recent Ice Age.

Learn more about the festival and other stories at State Parks at the NYS Parks Blog.

James Baldwin

Survey of LGBTQ Historic Sites in New York City Continues

State Parks will continue an ongoing survey of places in New York City relevant to LGBTQ history for potential inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places with the support of a $25,000 federal grant.

So far, six NYC properties have been listed on the National Register under the effort, which was launched in 2014 and has been supported by nearly $100,000 in grants from the National Park Service in 2014 and 2016.

Among the properties newly added to the Register is the Upper West Side residence of African American writer James Baldwin in September 2019. Another nomination to the Register is currently in process. The latest federal grant under National Park Service's Underrepresented Community Grants Program will support the nomination of two more potential sites.

State Parks has subcontracted the register listing project to the not-for-profit NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, which so far has documented nearly 250 sites across the city, including residences, stores, performance venues, bars and restaurants, organizational and community spaces, medical facilities, and cultural and educational institutions. The project has outlined these locations on its website and disseminates its content through social media at @nyclgbtsites. Learn more

Future MInnewaska State Park Preserve Visitor's Center

Construction Begins on New Visitor Center at Minnewaska State Park

Construction has started on a new $6.1 million visitor center at the Minnewaska State Park Preserve on the Shawangunk Ridge. A public-private project with the Open Space Institute, the project will create a new 5,000 square-foot facility that features public amenities and classroom space, exhibits and programming to educate visitors on the park's natural and recreational features.

The visitor center is being primarily funded by $3.1 million from Governor Cuomo’s NY Parks 2020 Initiative. As part of the partnership, OSI has also raised $2.5 million and is launching a public campaign to raise the final $500,000 toward the project. The funds are contributing to the building design, construction, state-of-the-art exhibits and other upgrades and features. 

OSI has also spearheaded the restoration of 4.5 miles of the park's Smiley Carriage Road, a popular destination for hikers, bikers, horseback riders and cross-country skiers. The Smiley Carriage Road reopened this fall after a $1.9 million restoration project, completed with support from the Butler Conservation Fund and the state Environmental Protection Fund. Learn more

Field Trip Grants Available

Teachers! Take your students on a winter excursion or plan now for spring field trips. The Connect Kids to Parks field trip grants are available throughout the year for trips to state parks and historic sites. For field trip itinerary ideas and to how to apply for a grant visit

Field Trip Grants
Shoreline Resiliency Projects Funded in Lake Ontario/St. Lawrence Region

Some $236 million in Shoreline Resiliency Projects Funded in Lake Ontario/St. Lawrence Region

More than 130 local projects in eight counties this year have received $236 million instate funding to deal with sustained flooding on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River through Governor Cuomo’s Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI).

Projects include shoreline stabilization, hardening of harbors, replacement of docks, protection of wastewater systems, and upgrading of culverts, roadways and infrastructure to handle sustained high water.

As part of the state's ongoing response to record flooding that hit Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shoreline communities this past summer, Governor Cuomo created the REDI commission, a multi-agency team tasked with studying sustainable solutions to strengthen infrastructure and mitigate impacts from future flooding along the shorelines of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, while bolstering the region's local economies. The state has committed up to $300 million for REDI projects.

Learn more about 132 specific projects in Niagara, Orleans, Cayuga, Oswego, Monroe, Wayne, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties. 

EP holiday

Early Bird Discount on Empire Pass Renewals for 2020 Season

People who keep their existing Empire Pass card and renew online will save, with the biggest reward going to those who do it early.

Those who renew before January 1, 2020 will get $15 off a single or multi-season pass. Renewals done from January 1 to March 31 will save $10, and renewals done April 1 or later get a $5 discount. Renewals can be done online at Renew My Pass

The Empire Pass program provides unlimited day-use vehicle entry to state parks, boat launch sites, arboretums, park preserves and Department of Environmental Conservation forest preserves.

New customers can purchase a one year, three-year, five-year or lifetime Empire Pass all online at Parks Store or by phone 518-474-0458.