News from State Parks

March 2022  •  Issue 70

Niagara Falls State Park, USA

State Parks Sets Attendance Record for 2021

New York's State parks, historic sites, campgrounds, and trails welcomed a record-setting 78.4 million visits in 2021, continuing robust visitation seen since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Total visits statewide increased in 2021 by more than 427,000, driven by a dramatic rebound of more than three million visitors at Niagara Falls State Park compared to 2020, when international border tourism was curtailed due to COVID-19 protocols.

In addition to the total attendance, State Parks also set a new record for 2021 overnight visitation at campgrounds, with campsite, cabins and cottages booked for more than 787,000 nights. Over the last decade, total overnight stays at State Parks campgrounds have risen nearly 45 percent. Press Release

Bear Mountain State Park

State Budget Proposal Includes More Funding for Park Improvements

Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposed 2022-23 budget recognizes State Parks as essential places for safe and healthy public recreation by including $200 million in capital funding for State Parks, an 80 percent increase from the current level, to enhance the NY Parks 100 capital initiative. Governor Hochul announced one such project – the creation of a new State Park at the High Falls area of downtown Rochester – in her State of the State address in January. Another new State Park is being created in the city of Kingston and is expected to open to the public later this year.

For details on Commissioner Erik Kulleseid’s statement on the budget proposal visit: 

Press event, Sojourner Truth State Park

Governor Hochul Announces New Sojourner Truth State Park in Kingston

Governor Hochul announced that a new State Park to open to the public later this spring in Kingston will be named for 19th century African American abolitionist and suffragist Sojourner Truth. Covering more than 500 acres and a mile of Hudson River shoreline, this park was once an industrial site for production of cement, quarry stone, and ice harvesting. Sojourner Truth State Park will be first new State Park since 2019.

The Governor said the naming, which capped off Black History Month, reflects the state’s commitment to the diverse stories of its people and to Truth’s enduing message of freedom and equality.

Sojourner Truth State Park already includes the Hudson River Brickyard Trail, which opened in December 2020 as part of the Empire State Trail and the Kingston Greenline.  This season, State Parks will install limited parking and hiking trails in the new park to provide public access for passive recreation. Under an agreement, State Parks, Scenic Hudson, and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission will collaborate and solicit public input on how the park will be developed. Scenic Hudson, which led the way in protecting the unique open space, will operate the park under a five-year agreement. Press Release

Snowmobile Safety Courses

Free Snowmobiling Weekends Aimed at Out-of-State Sledders

To encourage more snowmobilers from beyond New York State to experience the state’s trail system, New York is holding two promotional weekends this month when normal state registration requirements for out-of-state snowmobiles do not apply. The promotional weekends, which can save participants up to $100 in registration expense, will be March 5-6 and March 12-13. Participants in the free snowmobiling event must operate a snowmobile that is validly registered in their home state/Canadian Province and must carry any applicable insurance as required by their home state/province.

This promotion recognizes the importance of snowmobiling to the economy of the state, which has a 10,500-mile trail network. New York State is distributing up to $4.2 million for snowmobile trail maintenance to local communities in New York this winter.

While enjoying the trails, State Park reminds all snowmobilers to operate safely, obey speed limits, and always maintain control of their snowmobiles. In addition, New York State residents are required to register and insure their snowmobiles through the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Press Release

Dockside Park

Hudson Shoreline Resiliency Project Protects Against Extreme Storms and Flooding

State Parks is collaborating with the State Department of Environmental Conservation on a $1.85 million Hudson River shoreline resiliency project in the Village of Cold Spring in Putnam County.

Work is now underway at 26-acre Dockside Park that includes removing existing riprap, concrete slabs, and wrack from the shoreline; grading the shoreline and installing bank stabilization features including boulder revetments, ice breaker boulders, and native vegetation. In addition, a boat ramp for non-motorized, car-top boats and other recreational amenities will be installed at the north end of the park

The work is mean to protect Dockside, owned by State Parks as part of nearby Hudson Highlands State Park, from erosion, flooding and ice damage.

Managed by the village of Cold Spring, the park is used for a variety of community events, including fireworks, concerts, movies, and children's activities. The facility has been damaged previously by flooding, including Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  Press Release

Employment at New York State Parks

Join the Team at State Parks!

There are permanent and seasonal job opportunities open at NY State Parks & Historic Sites, which is a great place to work with a team dedicated to supporting a premier network of parks, campgrounds, historic sites, hiking trails, swimming beaches and pools, marinas, golf courses, museums, and nature centers. 

For information on employment and current job openings visit:

Golf Courses Go Cashless

State Parks Golf Courses Go Cashless

For 2022, State Parks-operated golf courses will go cashless for payments in an expansion of a policy started in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. While cash payments were again allowed during the 2021 season, the cashless system is being made permanent in 2022 for reasons of efficiency, as many businesses have transitioned to debit/credit card payments only. This requirement applies to courses operated by Parks and is not in effect at courses run by concessionaires, including Saratoga Spa, Indian Hills, Springbrook Greens, Bonavista, Wellesley Island, and St. Lawrence.

Art supplies

Underserved Children to Attend Arts School at Saratoga Performing Arts Center

Forty students from the Capital Region will be able to attend the Saratoga Performing Arts Center School of the Arts with the support of a $20,000 grant from State Parks’ Connect Kids Program.

Located in the Lewis A. Swyer Studios at Saratoga Spa State Park, the arts program will expose students to music, dance, and theatre education for all age groups, physiques, and abilities. This year’s visiting artist will be presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco, who read at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.

Since starting in 2016, Connect Kids has supported nearly 5,000 field trips for more than 200,000 students to state and federal parks, forests, historic sites, fish hatcheries and outdoor recreation areas. Governor Hochul’s 2022-23 executive budget proposes increasing annual funding to $3 million, a 50 percent increase from the current level.

The program is open to public schools; county, city, town, or village youth bureaus; schools for the deaf and blind; BOCES programs; and selected not-for-profits that provide after-school, extracurricular and summer youth programs. Press Release

Sterling Forest State Park

Sterling Forest State Park Expands In Orange County

Sterling Forest State Park in the Mid-Hudson Valley is growing by an additional 130 acres that includes a portion of the former Greenwood Forest Farms, the first resort in New York State incorporated by and for Black families.

Identified as a priority in the 2016 New York State Open Space Plan as part of the New York Highlands, the new property provides critical buffer land to help maintain and enhance biodiversity.  Offering a potential new access point to Sterling Forest, the property also contains a network of woods roads and trails to complement the park’s existing trails.

Between its founding in 1919 and through the 1960s, a portion of this property was Greenwood Forest Farms, known as the first resort community for Black New Yorkers. Founded by a group of prominent Black families and civic leaders from New York City, the resort became a haven for cultural and civil rights leaders from Harlem and Brooklyn, including writer Langston Hughes. Some descendants of the original pioneers now live in the neighborhood year-round.

Learn more about the history of this pioneering enterprise in the NYS Parks Blog, which features content on Parks’ people, places, and projects.

The property was acquired with $364,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund. Press Release

Staff Spotlight, Conrad Baker

Behind the Scenery

Conrad Baker: Environmental Education Assistant, Letchworth State Park

How long have you been with the agency? 
I started as an SCA member in February 2020, was hired as a Park and Recreation Aide in October 2020, and then as an Environmental Education Assistant in October 2021.

What does someone in your position do?
I guide nature and history walks for the public, school groups, field trips, homeschoolers, scouts, etc. at Letchworth State Park, as well as other parks in the Genesee Region, like Hamlin Beach, Lakeside, and the Genesee Valley Greenway. I design and build nature and history displays for our nature center and museum. I create virtual programs for Letchworth’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Lately, I’ve been building self-guided virtual options for our First Day Hikes and splitting wood in preparation for our biggest spring program, maple sugaring.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever seen or done? During COVID shutdowns, I created short weekly educational videos and several longer, more involved virtual field trips. These longer virtual field trips are YouTube videos featuring most content that a group would hear on our most popular field trips: Geology, Mammals, Forest Ecology, The Mount Morris Dam, Life of the Monarch, Making Maple Syrup, and Invasive Species. As an opportunity to dust off some video production skills from my former journalism days, these videos explore astounding locations. To show Letchworth educator Elijah Kruger and US Army Corps of Engineers Ranger Tom Wendzel in the nooks and crannies of old-growth forest, the inner tunnels of the Mount Morris Dam, rock falls in the Lower Falls gorge, or the first glimpses inside Letchworth’s new sugarhouse, was an unforgettable way to kick off an education career, and I’m thankful for it.

Is there a destination you’d recommend to someone?
A newcomer to Letchworth State Park has to see all three major waterfalls, which are some of the largest and most accessible shale gorge waterfalls on the East Coast. Photos never do them justice. After that, I always recommend Trail 2 and Trail 2A containing some rare remaining old-growth forest in New York. Although there are no gorge views and no waterfalls, the opportunity to walk under quiet 200+ year old hemlocks and oaks, with generations of moss and mushrooms flourishing around them, should not be passed up. In the larger Genesee Region, the horizon-to-horizon state forests and wildlands south of Letchworth are must-see. Neighboring villages of Perry, Mount Morris, and Geneseo are havens for hungry and thirsty adventurers and the city of Rochester to the north is the place for nightlife and yet more waterfalls.

What inspired you to work in the park system?
I have lived in the Genesee River Valley for 10 years. The network of hospitality entrepreneurs, municipal leaders, and outdoor recreation enthusiasts make this a wonderful place to live, work, and explore. Now, I enjoy strong support from an experienced team of park managers and an agency that lets me connect with these communities to tell the story of this beautiful place better than ever before and call on next generations to continue to preserve and enjoy it.