On May 4, 2018, the State of New York launched a $90 million initiative to revitalize and rehabilitate nearly 50 State parks and historic sites across New York this year.
“Our world-class parks system attracts millions of New Yorkers and visitors each year, and this ongoing financial commitment will help ensure these jewels remain in good repair for years to come,” Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said. “This investment will continue to make much needed improvements and repairs at cherished State Parks to promote healthy outdoor recreation, preserve our environment and boost local economies.”
The funding, included in the 2018-19 State Budget, continues a major transformation of the park system that has invested more than $700 million into park and historic site improvements since 2011. “Governor Cuomo is leading the way in modernizing the oldest state park system in the nation,” State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said.
“We have begun reversing years of decline at our historic flagship parks, while expanding recreational access for the communities that have been underserved for too long. Park visitors to Niagara Falls, Watkins Glen, Green Lakes, Roberto Clemente, Jones Beach, Olana, Harriman and many more will see we have touched every corner of the state,” she continued.
The projects are part of the Governor’s NY Parks 2020 plan, a multi-year commitment to revitalize the state park system. The Governor committed $90 million to the effort in the 2018-19 State Budget. To date, the initiative has invested $700 million in 176 parks and historic sites – including installing 76 playgrounds, conserving 14,000 acres of buffer lands, rehabilitating 200 miles of trails, and beginning the building or improvement of 300 cabins and cottages and 30 nature and cultural centers.
Fifty-five percent of the funding has been to repair and improve basic infrastructure—sewer, water systems, roads, bridges, culverts, bathrooms, electrical system and internet connectivity. The initiative is also prioritizing the transformation of 31 flagship parks and parks that served communities that lack access to outdoor recreation—these parks serve 80 percent of the system’s visitation. In the same period, park visitation has increased 23 percent to 71 million visitors last year. A new progress report, “Building Better Parks,” details how the investment is modernizing and transforming the park system. View the report here.
“Parks are the gems of communities across the State, and this funding will allow for improvements to enhance them for families and children to continue to enjoy,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “New York is home to some of the most beautiful parks and iconic historic sites in the world. I encourage New Yorkers to volunteer as part of ‘I Love My Park Day’ to help cleanup and prepare for the long awaited summer season.”
The announcement came as thousands of New Yorkers were preparing to volunteer for the seventh annual I Love My Park Day, which was held on May 5, 2018 at state parks, historic sites and public lands across New York.
The event, sponsored by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and Parks & Trails New York, is a statewide event to enhance parks, historic sites and public lands and raise awareness and visibility to the state’s outdoor recreation assets and their needs. Volunteers had the opportunity to participate in clean up events at 135 state parks, historic sites and public lands, including sites operated by the Department of Environmental Conservation, the National Park Service and municipal parks.
In addition to $70 million in construction projects announced today, the budget provides $20 million for various system-wide improvements, such as investment in signage, technology, natural resource stewardship – and allocates funding for design of future projects, emergencies, engineering and construction oversight.
Chair of the Senate Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee, Senator Rich Funke, said, “As Chair of the Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee, I know that our state parks are a major attraction to residents and tourists. The tourism industry is vital to our state as it brings in $8 billion in revenue per year. I’m relieved to see Rochester and the Finger Lakes region included in the plan to improve popular, historic sites that have a long and rich history in our region and will continue to serve as prime tourist destinations.”
Chair of the Assembly Parks and Tourism, Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, added, “Improving our Parks system is paramount to providing safe and welcoming spaces that serve millions of New Yorkers a year. Additionally, our state parks boost local economies by encouraging recreational and nature tourism. New York State’s Parks act as anchors for communities to engage with and learn about our environment, serving countless families and adventurers. The state legislature is taking the challenge of modernizing the oldest park system in the nation very seriously, and we are proud to have passed a budget containing $90 million dollars in funding for nearly 50 state parks this year.”
Photo of New York City’s Central Park via Adobe Stock.