Find Your Fun This Fall at State Parks & Historic Sites

Autumn is here! New York State Parks and Historic Sites offer colorful outdoor experiences unlike any other during these next several months, and a full slate of hikes, festivals, and family fun is scheduled to encourage all ages to get more outdoors this fall.
If it's foliage you seek, observe seasonal changes at Schoharie Crossing; discover the Hudson River Valley, steeped in art, history and culture during 'Ramble' events all September long and bring your four-legged friend to stretch their paws at Grafton Lakes.
Senate House, Wellesley Island, Jay Heritage Center, Clay Pit Ponds, Thacher, Lorenzo, Wildwood, Mine Kill, and the Fall Family Freshwater Fishing Festival at Hempstead Lake are celebrating the best of the season with festivals of fun for the whole family, and Oktoberfest, with all its traditional merriments, has moved to a larger space at Anthony Wayne Recreation Area!
For those looking to lend a hand, the cooler weather is perfect for contributing to the state park you love, with opportunities such as Beach Clean-ups at Caumsett and Sunken Meadow; and Fall Clean-Up Day at Wellesley Island.

For more events near you, check out our
events calendar.
Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Grant Helps Improve Park Accessibility

State Parks is grateful for a $12,111 Quality of Life grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to purchase three Hippocampe Beach/All Terrain wheelchairs to help our visitors with disabilities better enjoy beaches and trails at three parks: Green Lakes in Fayetteville, Delta Lake in Rome and Gilbert Lake near Oneonta.

Most standard wheelchairs cannot navigate the sandy or difficult terrain of State Park beaches and trails. The specialized wheelchairs will be made available free of charge to provide individuals with limited mobility access to beaches, campgrounds and miles of trails located within these parks.

The award was one of 84 grants totaling over $704,732 awarded by the Reeve Foundation to nonprofit organizations nationwide that provide more opportunities, access, and daily quality of life for individuals living with paralysis, their families, and caregivers. Conceived by the late Dana Reeve, the program has awarded over 2,500 grants totaling over $18.9 million since 1999. 
Read more

New Excelsior Conservation Corps to
help steward State Parks
Governor Cuomo announced the launch of New York State's Excelsior Conservation Corps, a new AmeriCorps environmental education and stewardship program for 18 to 25 year olds who will work in State Parks and Forests. Members will perform environmental projects across New York State while gaining hands-on experience and skills in conservation careers. 

The 50 Excelsior Conservation Corps members will be based at Morrisville State College, where they will receive extensive training in wilderness first aid, trail construction, stone and timber construction, carpentry, emergency response, education and outreach, and backcountry living. After completing the program's training, members will divide into smaller teams to tackle projects across the state, often camping or staying in State Park cabins and campgrounds. 

Inspired by the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps, the program emphasizes education and career development. Members will develop leadership skills, general job skills and marketable skills that are designed to lead to a career in conservation or a related field. Learn More

Help is Available to Grassroots Groups Working to Improve State Parks, Trails and Historic Sites

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and Parks & Trails NY are teaming up to make $500,000 in grants available to help organizations improve state parks, trails and historic sites.

Applications are due December 4, 2015. Grant awards are expected to be announced in March 2016. Funding is provided by the Environmental Protection Fund. Read more

Major Transformation of Roberto Clemente State Park Begins

Construction has begun on $35 million in projects to make Roberto Clemente State Park's Harlem River waterfront greener and more storm-resilient. The projects will strengthen the park and surrounding neighborhood against flooding, as well as renovate the park's upper plaza to create a more welcoming gateway for the park's 1.3 million visitors.

A two-year project to rebuild the bulkhead with a more resilient design and enhance the adjacent esplanade area comes after discovering severe damage in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The redesigned waterfront will provide enhanced flood protection, storm resilience and green infrastructure. The outdated esplanade will be rehabilitated into a more park-like setting; featuring a shared pedestrian/bicycle pathway; river overlook, new boat launch, new performance area, new plantings and a scenic 9,000-square-foot inter-tidal area.
A second project to rehabilitate the upper plaza area will open up views to the park, improve landscaping and relocate the life-size bronze statue of Roberto Clemente to a more prominent place at the park's gateway. Read More

New Dog Run Opens at Gantry Plaza State Park 

State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey was joined by local residents and community leaders in Long Island City recently to open a new dog run at Gantry Plaza State Park.

The project is a great example of how parks help revitalize communities and improve quality of life for residents.  The dog run, open to the public twenty-four hours a day, replaces an unsightly area of the park that was used by dog owners but offered no amenities. New features include a beach pebble surface, multi-user drinking fountain, sustainable hardwood seating, stainless steel mesh fence mounted on concrete curb, and a perimeter landscape buffer.
Gantry Plaza State Park is a 12-acre park in Long Island City that boasts spectacular views of the midtown Manhattan skyline, including the Empire State Building and the United Nations. Read more
Summer attendance up 10%
New York state parks, historic sites and campgrounds hosted another successful season, with nearly 38.6 million estimated visits from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day 2015. That's a 9.6-percent increase in attendance from the same summer period in 2014.

Park attendance was boosted by a variety of factors, including the return of fireworks to Jones Beach State Park after a five-year absence; national exposure for Letchworth and Watkins Glen State Parks, which were ranked first and third best state parks in the nation by USA Today; improvements to the newly designated Buffalo Harbor State Park on the city's waterfront; favorable weather through the summer; and a late Labor Day.  Read More

New playgrounds connect youth to State Parks
Governor Cuomo announced the state has committed $2.5 million to build or improve 13 playgrounds at eight State Parks across New York. The park improvements are part of Governor Cuomo's NY Parks 2020 state park revitalization plan, which includes a commitment to add or improve 100 playgrounds by 2020.

Under the initiative, State Parks will replace outdated playgrounds at the parks with modern, code-compliant equipment and distinct areas for young and older age groups. Playground improvements will be coupled with site improvements, including shade trees or canopies, seating, water fountains and trail/walkway connections to the rest of the park.

The parks receiving new structures include: Captree, Delta Lake, Green Lakes, Hempstead Lake, Jones Beach, Letchworth, Saratoga Spa, and Westcott Beach. Read more

Find Your Fit at New York State Parks! #GetFitNYS 
The changing of the seasons is a great time to get outdoors and participate in the numerous events going on in New York State Parks!
If you are looking to take in the crisp, autumn air, Walkway Over the Hudson's Walktoberfest will offer extended evening hours to the public until 8pm. These hours will be in effect for October 9, 10, 16, 17, 23 and 24th. This means more opportunities for walking, biking or running over the longest, elevated pedestrian bridge in the world!
For something more relaxing, Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site will host a Saturday morning Tai Chi class on October 10th. This 30 minute introductory class will offer beginner steps of the Tai Chi for Arthritis program with emphasis on breathing and balance. The program will take place outside the Yankee Hill lock and proper footwear and comfortable clothing are recommended.

Hiking + Yoga = HikYoga. Combine these two activities for an extremely gratifying outdoor experience. On October 18
th, join Nicole Kazimer in Letchworth State Park as she leads you through the perfect balance of adventure and relaxation.  Outings are open to men and women of all ages and fitness levels. For registration and questions, please email (cost: $15 per person)
Genesee Valley Greenway State Park will host hike #7 of its historic interpretive hike series on October 10th. Hikers should plan on meeting at the gazeebo in the town of Cuba at 10am for a scenic 2.7 mile hike. More details can be found on the park's event page.
Looking for more ways to get fit and stay active this summer? New York State Parks provides countless opportunities and activities to stay active and exercise - no matter your age or fitness level. For a complete listing of upcoming events, visit our #GetFitNYS events page for more details.

Behind the Scenery with Mike Fagerstrom
Park Naturalist, Mine Kill & Max V. Shaul State Parks
How long have you been with the agency?
I became the Park Naturalist at Mine Kill and Max V. Shaul State Parks in 2012 after serving as a campground ranger in the Catskills.
What does someone in your position do?
A bit of everything! Primarily, my job is environmental education and recreational programming for school groups, youth organizations and the public who attend the parks.  My staff and I lead guided tours of the Long Path, snowshoe hikes, disc golf clinics, geocaching/orienteering programs, Leave No Trace workshops and several seasonal festivals at the parks.  We also recently hosted over 100 people this summer during our 'Explore Mine Kill by Kayak' series.  I try to embrace new opportunities at the parks as often as possible. 
What's the coolest thing you've ever seen?
A couple years ago, I brought a DEC biologist out to a less-frequented corner of Mine Kill to help identify an active bald eagle nest. Looking through the spotting scope and seeing the eaglets in the nest was completely unforgettable.  Witnessing the reactions of park patrons seeing an eagle for the first time also never gets old.     
What's the coolest thing you've ever done?
Aside from backpacking almost 5,000 miles along the Appalachian and Pacific Crest National Scenic Trails, I once took a journey by canoe from the Adirondacks to New York Harbor along the Hudson River.  Although that trip was much shorter than the hikes, the experience of paddling through such an incredible landscape and witnessing so much history was awe-inspiring.    
Is there a destination you'd recommend to someone?
I had the chance to backpack a portion of the Long Path this spring en route to John Boyd Thacher State Park.  Just west of Max V. Shaul in West Fulton, NY is a series of breathtaking waterfalls formed by the outlet of Looking Glass Pond.  Anyone interested in experiencing a remote, wilderness setting should definitely consider hiking the northern sections of the Long Path.  Otherwise, folks looking for a brief afternoon jaunt with an extraordinary view should check out Vroman's Nose just south of Middleburgh.   
What inspired you to work in the park system? I guess it's safe to say that I'm a bit of an outdoorsy person, so working for State Parks and doing what I love pretty much hit the nail on the head in my quest for the 'dream job.'  It's also great working with so many like-minded people on a daily basis.  

Volunteer Spotlight
Peter Sullivan (right) and another volunteer prepar the planters that will accompany each tee on the new course to showcase hole sponsors.
Name: Peter B. Sullivan 
Hometown: Bemus Point, NY
Park/Friends Group Affiliation:
Midway State Park

How long have you been volunteering at this location and how did you get involved?
My grandson and I played mini-golf at the park in July of 2014 and I had the idea then that the course could be improved since it was not in very good condition.

Describe a recent project, program
or initiative that you organized or participated in:
Together with the Friends of Midway,
I have worked to put in a new mini-golf course, including the design and fundraising.  We have secured 18 holes worth of larger sponsor dollars and we are continuing fundraising.  The course is evolving into a representation of Chautauqua County as a whole including the Chautauqua Institute Bell Tower, a Lucy-Desi (I Love Lucy) welcome hole, carved muskies (a fish that Chautauqua Lake is known for) and others. The project is a team effort, with the Friends of Midway providing the vision, design and sponsor support and the park providing the infrastructure.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?  I played the course when it was new in the 1950s and it was very nice then.  I decided the course needed restoration or to be rebuilt so that children and families today can enjoy the course and it can again be an attractive feature of the park. 


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