State Park Attendance Up But Park Budget Way Down - Are Park Closures Again On The Horizon?

Attendance at state parks is up 3.5 percent; 1.4 million more park visitors enjoyed the 178 parks and 35 historic sites that make up the State Park System this summer than last. However, the State Parks agency had to accommodate these additional visitors on a severely reduced budget, down 18 percent from three years ago, and with 1400 fewer lifeguards, park police and maintenance workers than in 2008.

Last spring, for the first time in the state's history, as many as 88 parks were in danger of having to close their gates. The proposal to close parks was greeted with outrage and a loud uproar from the public and local and state legislators. At the last minute, just hours before the Memorial Day weekend began, the Governor and Legislature voted to make $11 million available to prevent park closings.

An independent study commissioned by Parks & Trails New York revealed that the NYS Park System contributes $1.9 billion annually to the state's economy, a 5 to 1 return on investment. A healthy park system is a vital part of a healthy NYS economy.

PTNY has continued to advocate for the adoption of a strong parks agenda, and recently asked gubernatorial candidates to complete a questionnaire designed to gauge where New York State Parks would fall on each candidate's list of priorities.

Parks cannot again be a casualty of Albany's political gamesmanship without hurting the parks "brand" and the state's economy.  The state parks budget is a mere ¼ of 1 percent of the total state budget. It is penny wise and pound foolish to keep cutting the state parks budget.
View a newsclip and read a letter to the editor highlighting PTNY's advocacy on behalf of the parks budget.
Message from Parks Chairman Assemblyman Steve Englebright

Our State Parks and Historic Sites are some of our greatest natural and heritage treasures, as well as economic engines for their associated communities. Our State lays claim to having established the nation's very first State Park (Niagara Reservation, 1885) as well as the first State owned historical site (Washington's Headquarters, 1850). The people love their parks and New York's parks are among the best in the world.

We must appreciate the vital role parks and historic sites play in our collective psyche. Parks, with their natural beauty and open spaces, give our citizens from urban, suburban and rural areas alike the opportunity to experience spiritual refreshment that is desperately needed during these times of stress and fear. Our historic sites give citizens of our State and visitors alike the opportunity to understand and experience first hand the people and events that shaped the very creation and evolution of our Nation. As a result, a record 57 million people visited our Parks and Historic Sites in 2010.

Recently, a study undertaken by Parks and Trails New York found that our State's parks and historic sites represent a benefit-to-cost ratio of more than 5-to-1; meaning that more than $5 of economic benefit is realized for every $1 that is invested by the State in our Park system. This economic data is coupled with the knowledge that our parks preserve and protect invaluable natural assets such as our State's clean drinking water supply and biodiversity.

In 1924 Governor Alfred E. Smith noted in a memo to the legislature when proposing the creation of the New York State Park system, "The State ought to do everything in its power to provide forests and streams and parks to satisfy not only this generation, but future generations."

It is imperative that we, the stewards of our collective environmental and heritage assets, follow Governor Smith's historic lead and protect and preserve these public recreational, cultural, and economic treasures during a time when they are needed most.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright
Miles And Miles Of Festivities At The Friends Of Old Croton Aqueduct 6th Annual Aquefest

If you are a juggler, painter, sculptor, fiddler, interpretive dancer, acrobat or even just someone who loves to walk and live along the 40 plus miles of the Old Croton Aqueduct in the Hudson Valley, chances are that you were an attendee at the 6th Annual Aquefest hosted by the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct.

Enjoying the region's artwork and live music or embracing the marvelous aesthetics of the region, the Friends of Old Croton Aqueduct have created an event that inspires the senses and connects a number of communities.

This year's Aquefest activities took place in multiple municipalities to ensure that Yonkers, Tarrytown, Croton, Ossining, Hastings, Dobbs Ferry and Irvington were all able to host various performers on the weekend.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the performance of three-time Grammy Award winner Tom Chapin at the Keeper's House on Walnut Street in Dobbs Ferry.

Event organizer Eileen Charles hopes the celebration will begin to take on a life of its own in the future. "My dream is to have a weekend in which everyone knows to come out," she said. "We wouldn't have to hire bands and performers, people would just show up."

Although Aquefest is free to the public, the donations received make this event the Friends of Old Croton Aqueduct's largest fundraiser.
Walt Whitman Birthplace Association Honors Champions of Literacy

Walt Whitman was among the most influential poets in American history. He was born in Huntington, NY in 1819, and though his family left the area when he was a young child, he returned as an adult and went on to found the Long-Islander newspaper, which is still published today.

His vision of keeping the literary arts alive continues through the work of the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center, which is working to create a greater passion for reading and writing through exhibits, tours and educational and cultural events.

On October 7, the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association hosted its second annual "Champions of Literacy Gala Benefit" fundraiser at Oheka Castle in Huntington, NY. Three Champions of Literacy were honored for their dedication and commitment to literacy.

This year's honorees are author Ray Bradbury, whose more than 500 published works include The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451; community leader and vice president of Verizon Communications New York operations,Tracey Edwards, and New York State Assemblyman Steven Englebright.

All proceeds from the event benefit Walt Whitman Birthplace educational programs.
Friends of Taconic State Park Receive Heritage Award

The Board of Trustees of The Columbia County Historical Society has unanimously chosen the Friends of Taconic State Park to receive a Columbia County Heritage Award. The Heritage Award "recognizes the inspired commitment of so many to support Taconic State Park and particularly their efforts to preserve the  history of the iron industry in Columbia County."

The designation in 2007 of the Copake Falls Iron Works Historic District by the National and State Registers of Historic Places was one of the key motivating factors in the establishment of the Friends group in 2008. One of the long term goals of the Friends of Taconic State Park is to restore the Copake Iron Works to the condition of its operating heyday in the 1880s, including the re-creation of the narrow gauge railroad that circumnavigated the ironworks.

The first phase of this multi-phase plan is to cover the historic Copake Iron Works Furnace. The target date for completion is Fall 2011.

The Friends of Taconic was awarded a Capacity Building Grant by Parks & Trails New York for marketing and and membership materials to help meet their fundraising goals. 
Setting The Pace At Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Over 180 horses, ponies, and their riders recently saddled up for the 9th annual Autumn Country Pace hosted by the Friends of Rockefeller State Park Preserve and the Westchester Horse Council.

The 7.5-mile course utilized the historic carriage trails on the Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Sleepy Hollow and took advantage of the magnificent Hudson River views from the promenade at Rockwood Hall.

A hunter pace is a low-key competitive event derived from foxhunting. Teams of two or three riders follow an outdoor course laid out over terrain which is meant to simulate the riding conditions encountered during a foxhunt. The pace is not a race but rather guessing game on horseback. Each team must guess what the organizers of the pace have decided is an ideal time to complete the course and to adjust its progress accordingly.

While addressing riders and guests, Friends President Clare Pierson commented, "All proceeds from the event as well as all contributions to the Friends group go to the maintenance of the Preserve trails, to offset the severe budget cuts State Parks has suffered."
Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve Hold Nissequoque River Drift Benefit

Like a number of other State Parks, Caleb Smith State Park Preserve on Long Island narrowly escaped closure this past spring as New York State targeted 88 parks for closure. The Friends of Caleb Smith, an organization dedicated to the conservation and preservation of the park's natural environment and historic structures, has amped up fundraising efforts to ensure the park's future survival.

The announcement of Caleb Smith State Park Preserve closing was met with strong opposition from the Friends. The organization held rallies, formed a strong letter-writing campaign and called government officials.

"If they threaten again to close the park we will again have a writing campaign, we will take part in rallies to keep the park open and we will contact our officials in government," said Friends of Caleb Smith President Peggy Micciche.

In keeping with their dedicated efforts to support Caleb Smith, on Saturday September 25, the friends of Caleb Smith Park Preserve held the Nissequoque River Drift Benefit to raise funds for the park. The Drift is a paddle down the beautiful Nissequogue River in Smithtown. At the end of the trip paddlers enjoyed a delicious all-you-can-eat barbecue with live music.

FALL 2010




Parks Supporters, Make Your Voices Heard Before Election Day

There is still time for parks supporters to have their voices  heard. Remember to reach out to candidates seeking state-wide or local office and let them know that keeping parks open and funded should be a priority.

The threat to close parks last year elicited a strong and vocal display of opposition by residents across the state. It is very important that legislators be reminded that we refuse to allow them to sacrifice parks to balance the budget.

Our parks provide the recreational opportunities, health and quality of life that are a priority to New Yorkers.

We must remain active and steadfast in our message.

We're Gearing Up To Fight For Parks - Are You Ready To Fight With Us?

Parks & Trails New York is committed to providing leadership and organization to help cultivate a vocal and effective parks coalition that includes park patrons, legislative leaders, parks Friends groups, environmental organizations and state and local tourism and business stakeholders.

In the coming months, Mark Luciano, Director of Park Programs and Government Relations for PTNY, will be reaching out to park Friends groups to discuss the coordination of regional meetings and advocacy days with local and state legislators in Albany as well as in district offices statewide.

In preparation for what will be another difficult budget cycle, it is essential to focus on the development of a legislative agenda that will ensure that parks remain a priority.

Are you ready to fight with us? Call 518-434-1583 ext 210 or email

Parks & Trails New York Offers Grants For Park And Trail Groups

Parks & Trails New York is launching the next round of its Capacity Building Grants for park and trail groups in New York State. The grants, of up to $3,000, will strengthen not-for-profit organizations that are working to build and protect parks and trails in communities across the state. Through the grant program, made possible by a generous donor, Parks & Trails New York intends to help not-for-profits better fulfill their missions; improve their reach, effectiveness, and impact; leverage more resources; and increase community support for and involvement in park and trail planning, development, and stewardship.

Funds can be used to assist with activities associated with organizational start-up and development, training, communications, and volunteer recruitment and management. The deadline for submitting applications is Nov. 22, 2010.

The program is unique in that it supports activities not normally covered by existing grants. Seventeen groups have already used these grants to expand their fundraising and membership campaigns, enhance their public programming, redesign or create new websites, and develop marketing materials.  Recipients include:


Friends of Robert Moses State Park Nature Center


Friends of Rockland Lake and Hook Mountain, Inc


Friends of Glimmerglass State Park


Friends of Connetquot


Friends of Taconic State Park

More information and an application can be found on the Parks & Trails New York website, or by emailing or calling (518) 434-1583.

Party For The Parks

Help us celebrate the passionate and successful efforts of park supporters to keep our state parks open this year.

Join us as we honor two legislative champions, Assemblyman Steve Englebright and Senator Josč Serrano, and intrepid Friends groups statewide, as represented by the Friends of Fahnestock and Hudson Highlands, Knox Farm, Riverbank, and Thacher and Thompsons Lake State Parks.

     TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2010
               5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
         Seven West 43rd Street, NYC

For more information call 518-434-1583, ext. 205 or email

Friends Group Formed For Schodack Island State Park

The newly formed Friends of Schodack Island State Park, Inc. held its first meeting in early August. The group met at Schodack Island State Park, located along the Hudson River just south of the Village of Castleton in Rensselaer County, to elect officers and board members and plan future activities.

Dan Odell, newly elected president of the organization, will lead the new group's fundraising, event planning, trail maintenance, and clean-up efforts.

"There has been an outpouring of community support for this park in the past several years and we are building on that momentum. We intend to work closely with park staff to support the park by providing volunteers, developing programs and events, and fundraising for specific park needs," said Odell.

Schodack Island State Park, which opened in 2002, is a 1,052 acre park lying between the Hudson River and the Schodack Creek. It boasts a state-of-the art boat launch facility with wash station on the Hudson River and a floating canoe and kayak launch on the Schodack Creek. It has beautiful river front views, picnic pavilions, playing fields, and ten miles of trails which are available for cross-country skiing in the winter. In the fall the park allows hunting by permit and in the spring the park offers some of the best striped bass fishing in the region.

For information on joining the Friends of Schodack Island State Park, Inc. contact Dan Odell at 518-944-0141 or


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