News From State Parks

News from New York State Parks, October 2020  •  Issue 61

New Energy & Nature Education Center Opens at Jones Beach State Park

New York State marked Climate Week in September by opening the innovative Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center at Jones Beach State Park. The center will educate and inform the public about how energy shapes New York's natural systems, and how such energy can be harnessed to advance New York's nation-leading plan to combat man-made climate change.

Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center

Established by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation - in partnership with the Long Island Power Authority, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and the New York Power Authority - the pioneering facility helps visitors become better stewards of the environment and smart energy consumers.

With on-site renewable energy sources and environmentally responsive architectural elements, the center models net-zero energy use and adaptive, resilient design. Nineteen interior and 13 exterior exhibits unite the most current scientific knowledge with dynamic and accessible graphics, videos, and interactive games to showcase how visitors can take action to conserve energy and protect the environment in their own lives.

Open year-round seven days a week, the facility offers a full range of exciting programs and events for visitors of all ages.  Learn more

Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site

State Parks Investigates Lake Ontario Island’s Role in War of 1812 Battle

State Parks are investigating the role that an island near Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site on Lake Ontario played in an amphibious battle between Great Britain and the U.S. during the War of 1812.

Under a $50,000 grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Parks Service, researchers from the State University of New York Public Archaeology Facility at Binghamton University will survey the terrain of Horse Island, located about a mile west of Sackets Harbor in Jefferson County.

The 24-acre island was the scene of an amphibious landing by British forces in the predawn hours of May 29, 1813, as the spearhead of an attack aimed at U.S. naval facilities in Sackets Harbor. The battle involved hundreds of troops on both sides, and resulted in significant casualties.

The island's initial defenders, which included a unit of volunteers from Albany, made first contact before retreating to the mainland to continue a three-hour battle. British forces failed to reach the harbor and withdrew later that morning back to their base in Kingston, Upper Canada.

Plans call for the island, which was purchased by State Parks in 2019 from the Civil War Trust, ultimately to be made part of the nearby Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site.

Much of the island has remained undeveloped since the battle. A lighthouse was added there in the 1831, and replaced in 1870. The island has primarily been used by waterfowl hunters. Learn more

Lake Minnewaska Visitors Center

New Visitors Center Opens at Minnewaska State Park Preserve

Lake Minnewaska Visitors Center

Visitors to Minnewaska State Park Preserve will be greeted by a new 5,400 square-foot visitors center that provides restrooms and other amenities, as well as education and programming space dedicated to the environmental and natural history of the Shawangunk Ridge.

The center caps a $27 million public-private multi-phase investment in the 24,000-acre Preserve under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s NY Parks 2020 initiative. Under the partnership, the not-for-profit Open Space Institute rase $3 million in private funds and grants for the center’s design, state-of-the-art exhibits and other upgrades and features.

Upgrades at the Preserve include renovation of the park roadway, new timber guide rails, two new electric vehicle charging stations, improved parking areas, new  ADA accessible walkways, public drinking water, new storm water and sewer management infrastructure, and underground utilities; adding native plantings and landscaping, and other site improvements.

In 2017, the first phase of improvements included a rebuilt main entrance area on Route 44/55 to mitigate waiting traffic, as well as adding automated parking fee stations to relieve traffic congestion and improve safety on peak visitation days in a Preserve that draws up to a half-million visitors year.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, visitation at the Preserve, which includes the Sam’s Point Area – home to a rare pitch pine ecosystem – surged by more than 40 percent compared to 2019. Learn more

Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls State Park USA

Niagara Falls Tour Boats Go Green To Combat Climate change

The iconic Maid of the Mist tour boats at Niagara Falls State Park, which made their maiden voyage in 1846, are now helping to combat man-made climate change with the launch of the first two new all-electric, zero-emission passenger vessels in use in the the United States.

Named the  James V. Glynn and Nikola Tesla, the passenger vessels of the first their kind in the United States. James V. Glynn is named in honor of the longtime Maid of the Mist Chairman and CEO James V. Glynn who is celebrating his 70th year with the corporation. Nikola Tesla is named for the Serbian-born engineer behind the design and construction of the world's first hydro-electric power plant, located in Niagara Falls.

The electric vessels are the result of collaboration among New York State Parks, the New York Power Authority, the Maid of the Mist operators, and ABB, a pioneering technology leader in digital industries.

The new Maid of the Mist vessels build on a $70 million revitalization of Niagara Falls State Park, which has renewed major viewing areas including Luna Island, Prospect Point, Lower Grove, Three Sisters Islands, North Shoreline Trail, Luna Bridge, and Terrapin Point with new pedestrian walkways, enhanced landscaping and signage, new benches, lighting and railings. Learn more

Friends of Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Rockefeller Estate Carriage Roads As Ultimate DIY Project

The many miles of carriage roads that guide visitors through the Rockefeller State Park Preserve and the Rockefeller Pocantico Hills Estate Historic District represent the personal vision and labor of love of one of the 20th century’s richest industrialists – John D. Rockefeller.

“Old John D,” as he was known by his neighbors at the time, tramped through his massive country estate in Westchester County in the Hudson Valley to survey and lay out these roads himself at the turn of the century.

Learn more about this fascinating story, how Rockefeller approached his road work, the sites recent listing to the State and National Register of Historic Places, as well as other interesting topics – including the “Get Out and Explore…” series on staff-favorite hiking trails in various Parks’ regions - in the New York State Parks Blog.

NY State Parks Explorer App

New State Parks Explorer Mobile App for Visitors

State Parks has launched a new mobile app for smart devices to provide visitors with information at their fingertips on destinations and activities.

The free New York State Parks Explorer App includes rotating curated content, as well as information on parks and historic sites, directions, hours of operation, links to camping reservations, fees, trail maps, and helpful know-before-you-go details. Plus users can favorite their most-loved places to receive important updates and alerts. 

The Parks Explorer App is free for both iOS and Android devices, download yours today and keep an eye out for new features and updated seasonal content. Learn more

Behind the Scenery

Behind the Scenery

Lindsey Presti, Park Supervisor 2, Niagara Falls State Park

How long have you been working with the agency?I began working at Niagara Falls in 1997 as a seasonal parking lot attendant. I began working year-round in 2002, so around 23 years.

What does someone in your position do? I am a Park Supervisor 2 with the Operations Department at Niagara Falls State Park, supervising the point of sale locations throughout the park.  A little bit of everything – hiring, scheduling, budgets, permits, helping with special events. This season we experimented with virtual line queues for other popular attractions trying to expand on the success of timed ticketing at the Cave of the Winds attraction.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever seen or done?At the park in 2012, Nik Wallenda walked a tightrope across Niagara Falls from the U.S. to Canada, and it was broadcasted nationally during prime time.  It was a neat experience to be a part of, everyone at the Park came together and put in a lot of effort to make it a truly memorable event.

Is there a destination in the park/region you’d recommend to someone?  If you are visiting Niagara Falls State Park you must visit the Cave of the Winds. There’s really no other experience like it. You are right up next to the Falls. 

What inspired you to work/volunteer in the park system? I like that every day is different with Parks, with a beautiful setting to call your office.