News from State Parks

New York State Parks

December 2020 

First Day Hikes

Ring in 2021 with First Day Hikes 

First Day Hikes will again be taking place at State parks, historic sites, wildlife areas, trails and public lands on Jan. 1, although with some limitations due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

For the 10th anniversary of the event, options for hikes range from self-guided treks to small staff- or volunteer-led hikes available that first Friday, Saturday or Sunday of January, allowing participants the time and space to social distance while still enjoying nature’s winter wonders.

The walks and hikes are family-friendly, and typically range from one to five miles depending on the location and conditions. Hikes are being offered at 61 state parks, historic sites, DEC state lands, wildlife areas, Forest Preserve trails and environmental education centers.

A full listing, including details and pre-registration requirements, can be found at and

National Purple Heart Hall of Honor

Expanded Purple Heart Hall of Honor Reopens 

The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in Orange County reopened on Veterans Day after a $17 million expansion during the last year.

As the nation’s first facility dedicated to recipients of the Purple Heart, the upgraded 7,000 square foot hall features improved visitor access and new and refurbished exhibit space, with an increased emphasis on stories of individual award recipients.

During a dedication ceremony for the new wing, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul unveiled a plaque honoring the late New York State Senator William Larkin, Jr., who was instrumental in establishing the Hall of Honor in 2006 and later secured $10 million for its current expansion.

The project added 4,300 square feet of new space to create a new museum wing to upgrade exhibits, improve visitor circulation and provide public gathering space. The galleries/exhibits incorporate integrated audio-visual and media presentations, as well as museum-quality casework for each area with interpretive graphics, locally controlled lighting, touch-screen interactive monitors, and multiple large-format graphic displays. 

There are an estimated 1.8 million recipients of the Purple Heart, which is awarded to military personnel wounded or killed by enemy action. The hall maintains a searchable online database of recipients from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, Samoa and the Philippines. Learn more

Johnson Hall State Historic Site

State Parks Envisions Expanded Mohawk Legacy at Colonial-Era Historic Site

Long-term plans for the Johnson Hall State Historic Site call for enhancements to more fully describe the historic role that the Mohawk and other Native peoples played in colonial-era New York.

A new master plan for the 33-acre site in Johnstown, which is the former residence of 18th century British colonial official Sir William Johnson, calls for a cultural reinvigoration of the site including construction of a longhouse, a trade house and a blacksmith’s shop.

State Parks also recently acquired a 3.4-acre adjoining parcel at 137 Hall Avenue to add to the historic site, which once covered an estate of about 700 acres. The parcel will provide room to implement recommendations from the plan, including replacing a small existing visitors center with a modern new center to include restrooms, historical exhibits, a gift shop, staff offices and a kitchenette, as well as expanding the historic site's trail network. 
Learn more

NY State Parks Explorer App

State Parks Explorer Mobile App 

Discover your next adventure right at your fingertips. The free New York State Parks Explorer App includes information on parks and historic sites, rotating curated content, as well as directions, hours of operation, links to camping reservations, fees, trail maps, and helpful know-before-you-go details. Plus users can favorite their top locations 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

Greenway Trails at State Parks

Expanding Greenways into Underserved Communities

State Parks has released a draft plan on future development of the statewide system of non-motorized multi-use trails, also known as greenway trails.

Currently, the state has 2,300 miles of such trails, which are often converted from former rail beds or canal paths. Data collected for the plan identified another 225 miles of planned trails in the works, with more than 850 additional miles identified as suitable locations for future trails.

Open for public review, the plan calls for development and expansion of such trails into underserved and moderate- to low-income communities, as well as filling in gaps so trails are better connected together.

Other draft recommendations include promotion of the greenways as a destination for tourism, healthy recreation, and active lifestyles; and seeking additional funding opportunities to support future trail creation.

A copy of the plan can be found online at: Statewide Greenways Plan 2020 Draft, GEIS, with public comment being accepted until Jan. 19, 2021. Comments should be submitted to 
Learn more

Chittenango Amber Ovate Snails

Help Brewing for Globally-Rare Snail at State Parks

Efforts by State Parks to protect a rare snail found in the wild only at the base of a rocky waterfall at Chittenango Falls State Park in Madison County are getting help from a local farm brewery in that county.

The Critz Farm brewery is donating proceeds its “Endangered Species IPA” to support a captive breeding program for the Chittenango Amber Ovate snail by State Parks, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse.

Since the breeding program started five years ago, nearly 2,000 of the snails – known in shorthand as the “chitt” – have been propagated in climate-controlled incubators at both SUNY-ESF and the Rosamond Zoo. About 400 of these snails have been released into the park during this time, some as hatchlings and the rest as adults capable of reproduction.

These efforts are helping the snails keep their toehold at the park, where their population has been declining under pressure from climate change, competition from a species of invasive snail and other factors. Currently, only about 100 Chittenango Amber Ovate snails are estimated to live in the park, where they have been found for about 12,000 years since the end of the last Ice Age.

Learn more about the snail, its unusual ecosystem at the park, and the breeding program, as well as many other Parks-related topics, in the weekly posts on the New York State Parks Blog.

Maple Leaf Award

Behind the Scenery

Jim Brophy, Park Manager 3 at Robert H. Treman, Allan H. Treman and Buttermilk Falls state parks in the Finger Lakes Region

How long have you been with the agency? I started in 2006 as a seasonal worker at Sterling Forest State Park, working on a restoration, construction and maintenance crew there.

What does someone in your position do? In my current role as Park Manager for the Ithaca Area State Parks my duties vary greatly. On a given day I could be training new hires, writing a grant, cleaning a restroom, researching regulatory requirements, gently relocating a skunk, working with community groups, working with the crew on repairs or planning out the operations for the next year.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever seen or done? The coolest thing I’ve ever seen was watching the creativity and artisanship of our crew unleashed to renovate our CCC era cabins, primarily using materials milled and fashioned right here in the park. The cabins look fantastic and it was a great example of the high level of talent in the ranks of OPRHP - not just in my park, but across our agency you can find stories like this.

Is there a destination you’d recommend to someone? I would definitely recommend hiking the Gorge Trail from the Old Mill to Lucifer Falls at Robert Treman State Park. If swimming is open, continue your hike and go off the diving board at Lower Enfield Falls, which is a weekly ritual for me in the summer!

What inspired you to work in the park system? The legacy of the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) is what drew me to parks initially. That program was inspiring to me as a history student. Working outside is also kind of a must for me. Once I started working for parks, it was the people we served, our mission, and the many talented people I call colleagues that has kept me inspired.

Editor’s Note: Jim also was recipient of the 2019 Maple Leaf Award, which is given annually by Parks’ Statewide Facility Managers Committee to recognize outstanding achievement by one of their members. Congratulations, Jim!

Natural Heritage Trust

Give Back to the Places You Love

Over this challenging year, New Yorkers turned to their state parks and public lands for sanctuary, exercise, and to safely spend time with loved ones. For over 50 years, the Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) has protected and supported these special places through the generous support of people who value parks, open space, historic preservation and access to the outdoors.

Donations to the NHT support projects that enhance the visitors experience at New York State parks, historic sites and public lands; expand access to the outdoors for youth through programs like Connect Kids to Parks free Learn-to-Swim classes and summer camps; promote environmental education at the state’s nature centers; and conserve our state’s precious natural, cultural and historic resources.

Make a donation and help support the parks that have given so much to so many this year.

To learn more about the NHT’s projects and programs, sign up, or text NHT to 22828, to receive our newsletter!

The NHT's mission is to receive and administer gifts, grants and contributions to further public programs for parks, recreation, cultural, land and water conservation and historic preservation purposes of the State of New York. The Natural Heritage Trust is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public benefit corporation and is eligible to accept charitable contributions.