August News from State Parks

August 2021  •  Issue 67

New Visitor Facility Opens at Saratoga Performing Arts Center

Visitors to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) at Saratoga Spa State Park are enjoying a new $9.5 million visitors services center unveiled earlier this season by Governor Kathy Hochul prior to her swearing-in in August.


Called The Pines, the new and renovated facilities create a new four-season education, event, and community gathering space, as well as a lounge area overlooking the amphitheater, new concession areas and restrooms.

SPAC Press Event

Supported with $1.5 million in grants from Empire State Development and State Parks, the project also restored park-like aesthetics to the grounds and opened up original sight lines from the Route 50 gate to the Victoria Pool. It provides new spaces for gathering outside of the amphitheater: The Julie Bonacio Family Pavilion; The Pines Terrace; and the Nancy Di Cresce Education Room at The Pines, SPAC's first year-round space for education and community outreach. Photo Album

Hiker Safety Enhanced with New Ninham Trail

Niham Trail

A new trail opened this season at Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve in the Hudson Valley that improves hiker safety on Breakneck Ridge, one of the most physically demanding hikes in the region.

The new half-mile Ninham Trail, named for the last chief (also called a sachem) of the Wappinger native people of the area, provides for safer hiker and staff access to the narrow and steep Breakneck Ridge Trail.

This is the first construction project managed by the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, a new non-profit working with State Parks and the 19 other project partners to advance the 7.5-mile Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail linear park along the Hudson River’s eastern shore between Beacon and Cold Spring.

Trail building company Tahawus Trails, with assistance from the volunteer Jolly Rovers Trail Crew of Poughkeepsie, constructed the new Ninham Trail with more than 500 hand-cut stone stairs harvested from the slopes of Breakneck Ridge. With this new trail, foot traffic on the lower Breakneck Ridge ascent is now one-way ascending only. Press Release

Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site

Friends Groups Get $900,000 in State Grants

Thirty not-for-profit organizations across the state involved with stewardship of state parks, trails, historic sites, and public lands recently received $900,000 in funding under the state Park and Trail Partnership Grants program.

Supported through the state Environmental Protection Fund, the grants support partner group efforts to raise private funds for capital projects, perform maintenance and beautification undertakings, provide educational programming, and promote public use of the parks through hosting of special events.

Grants are administered in partnership with the not-for-profit advocacy group Parks & Trails New York. Recipients must raise outside funding of at least 10 percent of the grant amount received. Press Release

Getting to Know the Natural Heritage Trust

Minnewaska State Park Preserve

Did you know that New York State’s public lands have had a charitable partner for over 50 years? The Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) was established in 1968 as a non-profit, public benefit corporation with the mission to support parks, outdoor recreation, historical preservation and land and water conservation throughout state lands.

For over five decades, the NHT has worked with its agency partners-- New York State Parks, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Department of State (DOS)-- to fundraise, secure grants, and support programs in benefit of the state’s environmental, outdoor, and historic resources.

In addition to supporting State Parks and public lands, the NHT also provides administrative and fundraising support to programs like the Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park, Connect Kids to Parks field trips, Ladders to the Outdoors, and the Bike Library at Shirley Chisholm State Park, among others.

The NHT is eager to connect with supporters. Learn more about donating to the parks, historic sites, and outdoor programs you love by visiting its newly launched website: and be sure to connect on Facebook and sign up for the NHT e-newsletter.

Washington's Headquarters State Historic Site

Accessibility Enhanced at Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site

Grounds and parking at Washington's Headquarters State Historic Site in Newburgh, Orange County, are now more fully accessible to all visitors.

The nation's first publicly owned historic site is more open and accessible to all under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) through a $1.8 million project funded by NY Works. The project included repair of existing bluestone walkways, enhancement of accessible parking, new fencing, and improvements to accessible paths on nearly seven acres of grounds overlooking the Hudson River. Pathways and parking are now ADA compliant.

Work also reinstalled the East Gate and established an ADA-compliant path to the recently restored Tower of Victory, which was built in 1887 to mark the centennial of victory in the War for Independence. Improved exterior lighting and drainage were also installed. A new 60-foot flagpole and new flags also were added with support from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Friends of the State Historic Sites of the Hudson Highlands (FSHSHH).

Site staff also is launching a new program, ‘Framing History: A Year in Pictures,' where the public will be invited to submit photos of the site throughout the four seasons for a virtual image gallery. Press release
For information on the program visit: Palisades Park Conservancy  

Empire State Trail ribbon cutting

Rail Trail Improvements Coming in Hudson Valley

State Parks is partnering with the Open Space Institute and the Town and Village of New Paltz to improve a 3.5-mile section of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, a key link in the Empire State Trail in Ulster County. 

The 3.5-mile trail segment runs from Cragswood Road in the Town of New Paltz, south through the village to the Empire State Trail trailhead at Sojourner Truth Park. The project will remove the aging trail surface and install a new 10-foot wide bicycling and walking path, install drainage improvements to prevent trail erosion, and make safety improvements including installing signage and marked crosswalks at eight locations where the trail crosses public roads. 

The Hudson River Valley Greenway has committed $900,000 to complete the project, with construction overseen by the Open Space Institute, a non-profit organization which completed a similar project in 2020 to improve an adjoining nine-mile trail section in the towns of Ulster and Rosendale which is also part of the Empire State Trail route. Press Release

Allegany State Park Celebrates Centennial

Allegany State Park

New York’s largest State Park celebrated its 100th birthday in July. Allegany State Park, encompassing more than 64,800 acres at the state’s southwestern border with Pennsylvania, now draws more than 1.5 million visitors a year.

Due to its size, this sprawling park is divided into two distinct areas – Red House and Quaker Run. Red House has 133 campsites, 130 cabins, 16 full-service cottages, two group camps, five miles of paved bike paths, many miles of hiking and horse trails, and swimming at man-made Red House Lake, with boat rentals. Its historic Tudor-style administration building, completed in 1928, includes a museum of park natural history.

Allegany State Park

The Quaker Run Area has two lakes, 189 campsites, 230 cabins, 37 full-service cottages, two group camps, many miles of hiking trails and horse trails, swimming at Quaker Lake, and a boat launch at the Allegheny Reservoir, which has 91 miles of shoreline and is popular for boating, fishing, kayaking and waterskiing. 

Allegany State Park

Allegany State Park includes rare remaining portions of old growth forest with trees more than a century  old that were left undisturbed during the area’s lumbering and petroleum boom that ran from the early 19th century to the 1920s. Park naturalists have mapped more than 5,200 acres of old growth forests of hemlocks and hardwoods, with the majority of that in the Big Basin area. Some experts believe this is the state’s largest contiguous track of old growth outside the Adirondacks.

Learn more about this venerable park and its history in this edition of the New York State Parks Blog. The blog features weekly posts on a variety of historical, natural, and other Parks topics.

Park Staff

Behind the Scenery

Travis Bowman: Historic Preservation Program Coordinator (Collections), Bureau of Historic Sites

How long have you been with the agency? In graduate school I interned with the Collections Management Unit at Peebles Island from 1998 to 2000. I briefly worked for an insurance company before the curator job opened at Clermont State Historic Site in the fall of 2001. I’ve been with the OPRHP family ever since.

What does someone in your position do? I coordinate the collections-based units at the Bureau of Historic Sites: Curatorial, Collections Management/Registration, Museum Security, and Conservation. These units are responsible for the care and stewardship of OPRHP’s massive museum and archival collections across all Historic Sites and Parks. We do everything from research on exhibitions and coordinating loans of our collections all over the world to monitoring fire suppression systems and the incredibly skilled work of conserving paintings, uniforms, canons, manuscripts, and (literal) kitchen sinks.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever seen or done? New York State has been so important, for so long, if there was a person or event significant to state or national history, we probably have a piece in our collection related somehow. The fun part is we also have vast collections from everyday New Yorkers, too; getting to tell the public about an amulet likely worn by an enslaved person, a bloody shirt from the Civil War, the logbook of an Erie Canal boat captain, or a 12,000-year-old spear point used for mastodon or mammoth hunting is just as exciting to me as a painting by Dutch Old Master, the buttons Robert Livingston wore when he swore in George Washington, or letters from John Brown to his daughter.  It’s all an amazing privilege.    

Is there a destination you’d recommend to someone? I’d have to plug the Revolutionary War history in our sites and parks. It doesn’t matter if you’re interested in battlefields and forts (we have several…of each), political history, conspiracies and intrigue, the homes of generals and politicians, the role of Native Peoples, or learning about the everyday men and women who fought (go look up Deborah Sampson), and lived in camp, OPRHP has it all. You can’t understand the American Revolution or its effects without understanding New York. The 250th anniversary of the war is coming up soon we’re working hard to make our facilities a true destination. If your patrons ask, just tell them we historians can’t agree if it’s called the Semiquincentennial, the Bicenquinquagenary, the Sestercentennial, or the Quarter Millennial. 

What inspired you to work in the park system? Like every other seven-year-old kid who watched Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark, I wanted to be an archaeologist. Until I got to college, I had no idea what an archaeologist was, but I knew I wanted to be one. After undergrad I got to briefly live my dream for a few years until I tore the ACL in my right knee (knees are usually the first thing to go on archaeologists), so I decided to switch to being a curator. Curators still get to play with the all the cool old stuff (albeit cleaner and more whole) and get the added bonus of being able to tell some amazing history to thousands and thousands of people.  I got lucky to get the Clermont job and ever since I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be a public servant with a platform!

NY State Parks Merchandise

Parks Swag Available at New Online Store

Show your love of New York’s outdoors. The State Parks Online Merchandise store is stocked with Park-themed items from short and long sleeve tee shirts to cozy hoodies, embroidered caps, fun glassware, camp mugs, notecards and more, the shop has something for everyone.

Don’t miss out-- order today as a gift or treat for yourself!  NY State Parks Store