News from State Parks

October 2021  •  Issue 68 

Hempstead Lake State Park

Governor Hochul Opens Environmental Education and Resiliency Center at Hempstead Lake State Park on Long Island

Governor Kathy Hochul marked State Climate Week by opening the $8.3 million Environmental Education and Resiliency Center at Hempstead Lake State Park in Nassau County last month.
The 8,000-square-foot center offers hands-on learning on the topics of storm resiliency and environmental management; provides space for community outreach; and serves as an emergency coordination center during disaster response. The center is part of a $35 million parkwide project to reduce flood risk, improve water quality and enhance recreational access along the Mill River corridor as part of Rebuild by Design—Living with the Bay, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Environmental Education and Resiliency Center at Hempstead Lake State Park

The Center includes community space for environmental education, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and community organizations. The Nassau County Law Enforcement Explorer Program, run by the Nassau County Police Department, plans to use the Center for local community outreach, combatting gang violence positively engaging young people through mentoring and education. Press Release

Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park

Autism Nature Trail Opens at Letchworth State Park

Supported by more than $3.3 million in private donations, the first trail in the U.S. designed specifically for Autism Spectrum Disorder communities and families opened at Letchworth State Park in Western New York.

The Autism Nature Trail (The ANT) is a one-mile hiking loop near the park’s Humphrey Nature Center that includes eight marked sensory stations, each designed to address a different sensory experience in a safe and supportive environment.

Autism Nature Trail Opening Event

Fundraising will continue to support visitor programming for the Autism Nature Trail. So far, more than 650 separate donations have been made to the project, reflecting more than 430 individual donors, 50 corporate donors, 25 community groups, and 15 foundations.

Statistics show that young people with autism spend disproportionate amounts of time indoors, often finding comfort in digital activities which results in social isolation. This disconnectedness not only affects individuals with ASD but also can affect caregivers and entire families, who can sometimes feel uncomfortable in outside settings. 
Press Release

For more information visit: The Autism Nature Trail 

Hudson Eagles - Project rendering

Hudson Eagles Riverfront Project Launches in Greene County

The first state boat launch on the Hudson River to be upgraded under the Hudson Eagles Recreation Area program will be the Coxsackie State Boat Launch in the village’s Riverside Park.

Construction of the $3.2 million project began in September and is expected to be completed by spring 2022. It starts an initiative to improve public access and resiliency on the Hudson River between Albany and Kingston, while enhancing connections to waterfront communities in the region.

The existing boat launch at Coxsackie will be modernized with new floating gangways and docks, a new ADA-compliant kayak launch, and added space for transient boater tie-ups. Environmental improvements include a new boat wash station to reduce spread of aquatic invasive species, a rain garden to control stormwater, an electric vehicle charging station, and energy-efficient LED lighting fixtures.

Improvements to the village park include a new pavilion, enhanced landscaping and seating, a renovated basketball court, improved pedestrian and bike pathways between the waterfront and downtown, and new sidewalks.

Under the Hudson Eagles initiative, four additional state boat launches - at Schodack Island State Park, Crailo State Historic Site, Athens State Boat Launch, and Hudson State Boat Launch - will offer expanded access for boating, fishing, and wildlife observation. Pocket park amenities will also be added, including picnic areas, gazebos, ample seating, and signage about nearby local amenities.

Press Release

Park Ranger

Seeking State Parks Rangers for 2022 Season

Know anyone who has ever thought about being a seasonal Park Ranger? State Parks is recruiting Rangers for the 2022 season to handle duties that focus on protecting park patrons and park property.

Park Rangers are there to assist and guide patrons, as well as enforce park rules and regulations through voluntary compliance where possible. Park Rangers patrol campgrounds, beaches, cabin areas, marinas, trails, gorges, picnic areas, and park buildings. Park Rangers are generally hired to work from mid-May through Labor Day, although some assignments can run beyond that. Park Rangers act as security guards for NYS Parks and are neither police nor peace officers. 

Recruitment for the positions, which pay $20.56 an hour, runs through December. There are openings in all 11 regions of State Parks.  Applicants must be at least 18 years old at the time of appointment, have a high school diploma or equivalent, have a valid driver’s license, meet physical and medical standards, and pass a background investigation and a 24-hour security guard training certification.

For more information about this position visit: Park Ranger Employment 
Questions? contact (518) 474-5030, or email:

 Breakneck Ridge

Land Purchase To Improve Visitor Safety at Hudson Highlands State Park in Hudson Valley

A recent property acquisition by State Parks along Route 9D in Putnam County will help improve visitor safety at Hudson Highlands State Park around Route 9D.

The purchase of about two acres – which includes a vacant former catering business known as The Chalet - will allow for relocation of the Brook Trail Trailhead and the addition of off-road parking, which will reduce the need for visitors to park along busy Route 9D to reach the trail.

State Parks recently closed on the $1.71 million sale from the not-for-profit Open Space Institute. Planning will now include how best to create information kiosks and a trailhead to the nearby Brook Trail, as well as provide increased safety with added parking around this busy roadway.

Hudson Highlands State Park is one of the most visited Parks in the Taconic Region, drawing more than 3.1 million visitors over the last decade. Earlier this season, Parks opened a new connector trail off of Breakneck Ridge constructed by Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail in order to improve safety on this physically demanding trail. Press Release

Ladders to the Outdoors

Parks Launches Ladders to the Outdoors Program for Western New York Youth

State Parks has started free recreational programs at State Parks in Niagara and Erie counties for underserved youths. Funded through a $860,000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation to the Natural Heritage Trust, the three-year Ladders to the Outdoors program will provide access to outdoor recreational spaces, equipment, transportation, and skills development in underserved communities.  Programs include guided hikes, fishing, biking, kayaking, swimming, and sports activities. The grant will also pay for equipment including bikes, kayaks, fishing gear and sports gear for community use, rehabilitation of athletic fields, and accessible play equipment at several state park playgrounds. Transportation to parks is supported through a partnership with the New York State Connect Kids to Parks program. Press Release

Solar Array at Niagara Falls State Park

Solar Energy Added To Niagara Falls State Park

In recognition of New York State Climate Week 2021, State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid announced last month that a new solar array will provide clean, sustainable, carbon-free power maintenance operations at Niagara Falls State Park.

A new 300-kilowatt solar array atop the park's maintenance building and trolley shop at 1410 Buffalo Avenue will provide power to the grid equivalent to the usage at the facility, which provides vehicle and maintenance support for park operations and for natural-gas powered trolleys that shuttle visitors. 

A second phase in the $435,000 project calls for the addition of electrical storage batteries to allow the facility to go off-grid and continue operating during blackouts or other emergencies. 

During the last decade, State Parks has installed 48 solar array projects at facilities across the state, with 37 installed by State Parks staff and the rest by contractors. These facilities combined are rated at about six megawatts, and cover about 15 percent of State Parks' total statewide energy consumption. By 2027, Parks has a goal of covering half of its electricity needs through renewable energy. 

Press release

Park Staff

Behind the Scenery

Savannah Miller
Office Manager, Verona Beach State Park

How long have you been with the agency?  
I’ve worked for State Parks since the spring of 2015 as a summer employee, and I’ve been the office manager since 2018.

What does someone in your position do?
I handle a lot of paperwork submissions, train new employees each spring and summer, track revenue and attendance, plan events, and make sure the office runs smoothly for our patrons and campers! In the winter I work with our maintenance department helping with snow removal, tree work, trail improvements and fun projects that we can’t get to during the busy season.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever seen or done? I’ve seen porcupines, all different types of eagles, beavers and fishers! Just this fall we got to assist the DEC and Rome Wildlife Management with releasing pheasants in our park for the hunting season. Seeing events come to life is really my favorite- no matter the size of the event I love seeing people in our community come together for a good cause. Getting to use our heavy equipment and snowmobiles is pretty fun too!

Is there a destination you’d recommend to someone?
I grew up at Verona Beach State Park; family reunions, birthdays, beach days. We would fish the pond when we were little and climb the pine trees so high until we couldn’t see our parents. Our second home is Southwick Beach State Park where we still jump the big waves and find solace in their campground. Chittenango Falls State Park is always a must when you’re visiting Central New York. The sight is breathtaking and it’s roaring sound is unreal but somehow there is still always a quietness in the air. Any chance you can get to spend a few hours in one of the New York State Parks; take that opportunity.  

What inspired you to work in the park system?
I came to Verona Beach to find a stable work week with full-time hours and steady pay. Each year has only gotten better since I’ve been here. My inspiration to work for this agency and improve my park comes from my childhood memories. I’ve stayed because of the families and people I’ve met, the connections I’ve made with park staff from all over, the laughter of kids that belts from our campgrounds, and because when I stand on our beach I feel at home.