News from NY State Parks

New York State Parks

February 2020  •  Issue 59

State Parks Set Attendance Record in 2019

New York's state parks, historic sites, campgrounds, and trails welcomed a record-breaking 77.1 million visits in 2019. The estimated attendance is up nearly three million visits from 2018, an increase of 4 percent. 

This reflects an overall increase of 33 percent - or more than 19 million visits annually - since 2011.

Shirley Chisholm State Park

Improvements made through the Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's NY Parks 2020 Plan include the new Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn, which has drawn more than 110,000 visitors since its July 2019 opening, upgrades at the golf course for the PGA 2019 Championship at Bethpage State Park, and renovated bathhouses and golf course improvements at Sunken Meadow State Park.

NY Parks 2020 projects in the Hudson Valley, Capital Region and elsewhere upstate included an upgraded visitors' center at Thacher State Park, two new welcome centers at Walkway Over the Hudson State Park, groundbreaking for a new visitors' center at Minnewaska State Park Preserve and an improved amphitheater at Saratoga Performing Arts Center at Saratoga Spa State ParkLearn more.

Hudson Cliffs

Governor Cuomo Announces State Parks Expansion in Mid-Hudson Valley 

As part of his 2020 State of the State agenda, Governor Cuomo announced preservation of 4,000 acres of open space in the Mid-Hudson Valley through expansions at seven State Parks, as well as two new parks in the region under his proposed $3 billion Restore Mother Nature environmental bond act.

The acquisitions represent an investment of $20.6 million in state funding from the Environmental Protection Fund and Hudson Highlands Conservation Act. 

These newest expansions will include 965 acres at Hudson Highlands State Park; 633 acres at Minnewaska State Park Preserve; 158 acres at Schunnemunk State Park;  112 acres at Sterling Forest State Park; 150 acres at Fahnestock State Park; and one acre at Rockefeller State Park Preserve.

This joins earlier acquisitions in the region including 808 acres at Schunnemunk; 740 acres at Minnewaska; 404 acres at Harriman; and 30 acres at Hudson Highlands.

Under the proposed Restore Mother Nature bond act, two new parks would be created in the Hudson Valley – the 508-acre Hudson Cliffs Park along a mile of the Hudson River in the city of Kingston and town of Ulster, and the Hudson Eagles Recreation Area of five revitalized boat launches along the river between Hudson and Rensselaer.

Programs under the bond act are aimed at reducing flood risk and revitalizing critical fish and wildlife habitats by connecting streams and waterways, right-sizing culverts and dams, restoring freshwater and tidal wetlands, reclaiming natural floodplains, restocking shellfish populations and upgrading fish hatcheries, preserving open space, conserving more forest areas, replanting more trees, reducing contamination from agricultural and storm water runoff, and expanding renewable energy. Learn more

Marsha P. Johnson State Park

State Park To Be Named After LGBTQ Pioneer

Governor Cuomo announced East River State Park in Brooklyn will be renamed for Marsha P. Johnson, an icon in the LGBTQ movement and a transgender woman of color.

Located along the East River in the Williamsburg neighborhood, the 7-acre park has stunning views of the Manhattan skyline, and includes areas for events, picnicking and play. The park is the site of the former Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal, the historic connection between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Johnson was an LGBTQ civil rights activist and prominent figure in the Stonewall Uprising in 1969 at a Greenwich Village tavern that marked the modern start of the LGBTQ rights movement. She was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, an activist with ACT UP, and co-founded STAR. Johnson died in 1992 at age 46. Learn more 

First Day Hike 2020

Attendance Up As New Yorkers Enjoy First Day Hikes

More than 9,500 New Yorkers greeted New Year’s Day 2020 with a First Day Hike during 85 guided hikes at state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas, trails and public lands.

In the ninth annual First Day Hikes program, attendance at State Park facilities was up by about 1,800 hikers, a 25 percent increase from 2019.

Taughhannock Falls State Park drew the most hikers of any Parks program, with more than 1,600 people doing the hike. New hikes for this year included the Herkimer Home State Historic Site in Herkimer County and the new Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn.

For the first time, the program included a First Day Ride program for snowmobilers at the Genesee Valley Greenway State Park.

Hikes included 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. FIrst Day Hike 2020 Photos 

Gristmill Restoration

Historic Long Island Gristmill Gets New Life 

A rare surviving 18th century Dutch-framed watermill in Roslyn, Nassau County is being restored under a $1.5 million state grant administered by State Parks.

The Roslyn Grist Mill, which dates from between 1715 and 1741, is one of the oldest buildings on Long Island, operating for more than 150 years providing the local farmers with ground meal or flour from their grain. From 1920 to 1974, the mill served as a tea house and popular tourist attraction. Owned by Nassau County since 1976, the vacant building was placed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places in 1986.

State Parks is administering the grant from the state's Regional Economic Development Council to the Roslyn Landmark Society to pay for stabilization and restoration of the historic landmark. Recent work included using hydraulic jacks to lift the 78-ton mill so a new watertight foundation could be installed. Timber framing specialists have begun removing and restoring deteriorated columns and support beams. Learn more

Young Cross-Country Skiier

Glide Through Winter at New York State Parks

When there is snow on the ground, State Parks offer many miles of cross-country ski trails for all abilities, from beginner to expert across 104 parks and eight historic sites.

Known in shorthand as XC (or also as Nordic) skiing, this family-friendly sport is a full-body, low-impact cardio workout as well as a wonderful way to get outdoors during winter to see how beautiful the season can be. Skiing is quiet as well, so skiers often have a chance to spot wildlife (and also get a close look at its tracks) that has not been scared off by their approach. 

There are ski trails at parks spanning the state, so skiers don’t have to travel far. To help decide where to go when conditions allow, here are some staff favorites. NY State Parks Blog

Lavada Nahon

Behind the Scenery with Lavada Nahon

How Long have you been with the agency?
My first day was November 18, 2019, although I have been doing programing at State Historic sites for several years as an independent historian.

What does someone in your position do?
The position, Interpreter of African American history, is newly created.

Daily various tasks come up ranging from verifying historic text, looking at projects or exhibits with the intent of bringing African American history or historical perspectives into the mix.  Currently I’m looking at how the lives of enslaved Africans are interpreted at our historic sites, what presence is given to them as well as free Blacks at our parks and battlefields where it is appropriate.

I’ve spent time looking at the Underground Railroad, the canal system and the time of transition from the late 18th century as enslavement is phased out and the 19th when waves of freedom seekers pass through the State.  The work jumps through 300 years of history and is proving to be very exciting.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever seen or done? 
Giving birth.

Is there a destination in the park/region you’d recommend to someone? 
The destination I recommend is my life prescription simply, “go outside,” no matter where I am. The state park system, along with the vast national, county and city/town parks, and historic locations in New York allow us to pass through centuries and explore so many cultures and areas of interest. To enrich our lives and sometimes just to relax. Well worth every minute.

What inspired you to work/volunteer in the park system? 
The desire to be of service to my community in all its names; human, an African American, woman, a person interested in history, even if it is only a few seconds old.

EP holiday

Keep the Card, Get the Discount

Renew last year's Empire Pass for the 2020 season and save $10 off the regular price of a single or multi-season pass. Offer is valid just for renewals, online-only, now thru 3/31/20.
Renew online at Parks Store.