A New Way to Connect to State Parks Takes Root

Farming is connecting a whole new group of park visitors to the great outdoors at a state park on Long Island.

Three years ago, Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park launched the state park system's first and only Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Community Supported Agriculture is a cooperative approach to farming, in which members share in the costs and operation of a farm, and in return, receive a share in the harvest. The innovative program has seen tremendous initial success. From a first year membership of 35 full shares the program has grown to supply food for over 100 families this year. CSA members pick up their harvest bags full of fresh, organic vegetables, herbs and flowers on site once a week, from about mid-May through October. Members provide time for the benefit of the farm throughout the growing season, including planting, weeding, harvesting, and vegetable distribution.
Bayard Cutting Arboretum's CSA farm is located on 14 acres of tillable soil, adjacent to the Bayard Cutting estate's original barn, on land that was the former cow pasture. 

The family of William Bayard Cutting Arboretum donated the 691-acre estate in Great River to New York "to provide an oasis of beauty and quiet for the pleasure, rest and refreshment of those who delight in outdoor beauty; and to bring about a greater appreciation and understanding of the value and importance of informal planting."

In keeping with the mission of the Bayard Cutting Arboretum, CSA Farming upholds the principles of sustainable growing using organic methods, relationship building, educational and community outreach. The farm is not only a link to the arboretum's past as a working farm raising award-winning dairy cows and vegetables, but a bridge to the future as a showcase for healthy foods and organic growing practices. Read more.

Brooklyn's New Beach

A project to enhance and stabilize East River State Park's shoreline will protect the park from erosion and help complete the transformation of the former Brooklyn rail-to-barge shipping terminal into a state park.

East River State Park is one of the few places in New York City where people can sit beside a natural beach. This project preserves the waterfront's natural setting, while making it more resilient and more inviting to the visitors who relax on the park lawn and enjoy the views of the Manhattan skyline.
The beach and the park's popular waterfront lawn had been suffering from deterioration and damage over the years, including when one-third of the park was flooded during Superstorm Sandy. Over the last decade, several feet of the park's beach and lawn had been lost to erosion due to tidal activity and boat traffic.

The shoreline restoration project included rebuilding the stone rip rap buffer, replenishing beach sand, installing a low-lying wall of reclaimed granite blocks at the edge of the lawn, adding new native plantings, and creating a new kayak launch. Read more.

Volunteen Spotlight
Karen Valdini, West Islip, NY

Bayard Cutting Arboretum Community Supported Agricultural Farm

How long have you been volunteering at this location and how did you get involved? 
I've been working as a volunteer at the Bayard Cuttting Arboretum CSA for about 2 years. I became involved at the farm when it was started. I began by helping the CSA Manager organize its membership, begin and write a monthly newsletter and started a CSA children's education program.

Describe a recent project, program or initiative that you organized:
Over the past two years I've developed and initiated a Children's Education Program that has two parts: 
  • One program meets once a week during the growing season, mid May until the end of July. During these weekly classes, children learn the importance of growing their own organic vegetables; caring for the CSA free-range chickens and how to maintain and sustain the land on which these vegetables are grown and the chickens live.
  • Bayard Cutting Arboretum School Field Trip Program began in Spring 2014. Local school children are given the opportunity to visit the Arboretum and participate in a three-part tour. The children are guided on these tours by trained docents and educators. The three-part tour includes a walk through the Arboretum Grounds, the Bayard Cutting family's historic manor house, Westbrook, and the CSA Farm. Field trips run in May, June, Sept and October.
What is your favorite thing to do at the park?
I love interacting with the children during the classes and field trips. I also like to work with other CSA members in the field. 
What would you suggest to others who might want to get more involved in helping out at their favorite park?
I would encourage anyone to become involved with the Arboretum in any capacity. It is wonderful to be part of a group of dedicated volunteers and NY State employees. Working to keep our parks beautiful and functioning for all to enjoy is a fantastic personal reward.

Behind the Scenery: 
Thomas P. LeBlanc

Allegany State Park

How long have you been with the agency? About 15 years. I started as a Park Naturalist, then did administration work for 5 years and the last 7 years I've been with the Forestry/Wildlife Department.

What does someone in your position do?
I'm involved with all forestry aspects from hazardous trees, invasive species monitoring, and trail maintenance. We deal with nuisance black bears, pheasant stocking, fish stocking and hunting issues within the region. Being a licensed bird bander, I've been running a MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) station here in Allegany State Park for the past 8 years and I also band Northern Saw-whet Owls during fall migration.

What's the coolest thing you've ever seen?
One day a fellow park naturalist brought an Allegheny Dusky into my office and asked if I had ever seen anything like this before. This salamander had two tails and after releasing the dusky we learned it was the first record of one ever being seen with two tails. That was cool!

What's the coolest thing you've ever done?

Living in Allegany State Park for 6 years was the coolest thing I've ever done. The park was my backyard and that really opened the door in learning more about the night life within the park. I no longer live in the park but still spend many after hours here watching birds and photographing the park.

Is there a destination in the park/region you'd recommend to someone? Wolf Run area of Allegany State Park is very diverse in wildlife and one of my favorite places to go. It's very remote from most people but still easy to explore the valley. I'm sure it's an area that's overlooked by most park visitors.

What inspired you to work in the park system?
Since childhood, I've always spent summers in Allegany State Park. Living nearby we would visit the beaver ponds most evenings with my mom. The park has always been part of my life and inspiration. Even at the age of 10 I knew I would be working here.

Great Fall Hikes

Nothing beats a hike on a sunny, autumn day. Immerse yourself among the spectacular colors that make New York's state parks so special in the fall. Below are some trail recommendations to soak in the scenery. Enjoy!

Gorge Trail, Letchworth State Park, 7 miles (moderate); Known as the Grand Canyon of the East, this park offers stunning views of the Genesee River gorge. The Gorge Trail begins just below Erie High Bridge at the southern end of the park and follows the gorge rim past the Upper and Middle Falls, Inspiration Point overlook, around the Great Bend and ending at the river flats near St. Helena. Hikers will be rewarded with breathtaking vistas and close-ups of the falls. 585.493.3600 

Rim Trail, Taughannock Falls State Park, 5 miles (easy to moderate); Located near Ithaca, the park's trails have spectacular views including the 215-foot Taughannock Falls, the highest vertical single-drop waterfall in the northeast. The Gorge Rim trail loops around the gorge and can be joined at every entrance. From the old railroad bridge, the rim trail offer excellent views of the upper portion of the park. 607.387.6739. 

Indian Ladder Trail, Thacher State Park, 3.5 miles (easy); Thacher is located just outside of Albany and offers great hiking and spectacular views from the Helderburg Escarpment. Among the popular hikes is the Indian Ladder Trail with interpretive signs along the trail, two waterfalls (Mine Lot and Outlet Creek), an underground stream, and caves. 518.872.1237. 

Beacon Hill Carriage RoadMinnewaska State Park Preserve

1.4 miles (easy); A Hudson Valley favorite, the park sits atop the Shawangunk Ridge with high cliffs that overlook the valley to the east. The Beacon Hill Carriage Road offers a shady, meandering route for 0.7 mile until you reach the panoramic view at Beacon Hill. The jaw-dropping vistas encompass the Catskills to the left, rock formation immediately in front, and the Taconic Hills of Conn. and Mass. in the distance straight ahead -- all within an hour and a half drive from NYC. Walk back the same route for an easy stroll or continue on the Beacon Hill Footpath (0.9 miles) for more cliff-edge views. This route does include some hills and rocky footing as it travels through a unique forest with rocky outcrops and distinctive pitch pine trees. Concluding at the Beacon Hill Picnic Area, which offers even more views to the south, hikers can make a loop route by continuing along the Lake Minnewaska Carriage Road (.50 miles back to parking areas). 845.255.0752  


Other resources to check the fall colors and places to go include the weekly foliage report from I Love NY and some additional hike suggestions including trails in the Adirondacks and Catskills, state forests and wildlife management areas. 

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State Park Renaissance

Nearly 300 park improvement and enhancement projects are taking place in your state parks and historic sites, thanks to Governor Cuomo's NY Works initiative. Check out what a difference it's making in our photo gallery.

Discover NY's Foliage 

Signs of New York's fabulous foliage are popping up around the state! Dazzling displays of autumn colors and the warmth of still-sunny days make the fall months a prime time to explore state parks and sites. Seek a new view from the cliffs at Thacher or Grafton's recently restored Dickinson Fire Tower, explore techniques to turn your hiking experience into poetry at Jones Beach, traverse the state-border while on a history-themed walk at Crown Point, saunter through Caumsett's varied landscape with their sampler hike, journey around scenic Olana while learning of the Ice Age forces that helped shape the land, take advantage of the early setting sun and explore Connetquot at dark, and try not to get spooked while strolling through Green Lake's "Wicked Woods" and Sonnenberg's "haunted" gardens.

For more fall festivals and fun, check our events calendar.

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Allegany Lovers Spruce Up
Their Public Lands


Allegany State Park is proud to host National Public Lands Day on September 27. Over the past 10 years, this event has grown to be a very popular opportunity for volunteers to show their love for Allegany by spending the day lending a hand to spruce the park up.


This year, over 100 volunteers, including Boy and Girl Scouts, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford students and employees from the new Buffalo Cabela's store, will tackle projects including weeding, painting, tree trimming, fire pit repair and general clean up. After a busy summer park season hosting thousands of campers, this work will be badly needed.


And no National Public Lands Day is complete without food and at the end of the day, a BBQ is the best kind of thank you for a job well done!


Call the park at 716-354-9101, ext. 236 if you want to sign up to volunteer. With events across the nation, you'll be part of the nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands. 


Free Mobile Trail Maps Available


New York State Parks has partnered with Avenza Systems Inc. to give State Park visitors free mobile access to more than 50 State Park trail maps featuring more than 1,500 miles of trails. The digital PDF maps are available to download free. 

Park visitors with GPS-enabled devices are now able to locate themselves on New York State Parks maps as they explore the trails. The maps provide a great option for visitors planning a hike in remote parks, where wireless service is not always available. Visitors can download and save maps through the Avenza PDF Maps in-app map store on their mobile device.  At the park, visitors can open the map and take advantage of various interactive features such as showing location; dropping waypoints/pinpoints on points-of-interest; attaching images and notes; and tracking routes, distance and elevation - all while offline.

Park visitors interested in the maps will need to download Avenza's PDF Maps app to their
Apple iOS and Android mobile devices and search for the New York State Park map of their choice.
Read more.



Meet the Locals 


Flying squirrels are elusive little creatures-- rarely seen, even though they might be living right in your backyard! Active only at night, they spend most of their time up high in the trees and are common residents in many state parks. Not actually fliers, they are able to glide long distances by stretching out a flap of skin (it's called a patagium) that connects their front feet to their hind feet. Like the familiar grey squirrels, flying squirrels eat nuts, fruit, insects, and will even dine at your bird feeder. They live in small family groups in the hollows of dead trees. In forest ecology, dead or dying trees are called snags, and they have a special role in forest life. Snags provide food for decomposers like termites and mushrooms, and habitat for animals like woodpeckers, owls, bats, and flying squirrels. While it may seem dead trees look abandoned, think again! 


Thanks for a great summer
And thanks for making us your destination of choice. More than 36 million people made a trip to visit a state park, historic site or campground this summer. In fact, park visitation was up 2 percent over last year. Read More

Now autumn is here in all of its splendor, and your parks offer crisp and colorful outdoor experiences unlike any other during these next several months.

See you back out there.