NY State Parks Has a Centennial to Celebrate

It was positively energizing last month to visit Albany, New York State’s Capitol, and take part in the 18th Annual Park Advocacy Day on February 27th. The day which began at “The Egg” on Empire Plaza was organized by our longtime partners at Parks and Trails New York and the Open Space Institute.  Nearly 140 dedicated stewards and friends of parks and historic sites from Long Island to Buffalo gathered as part of the “Green Scarf Brigade.” Our mission? To request legislators to support and sustain the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) which protects our natural resources and provides monies for critical parks infrastructure needs.  Initiatives like the Connect Kids to Parks transportation grants are a critical component to expanding public lands visitation – these grants are how we are able to offer schools field trips to the Jay Estate for FREE!

Highlights of the day included keynote speeches by Sen. Jose Serrano,  NY Department of Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos and outgoing Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid who received a standing ovation for his leadership over the last 5 years especially through the pandemic. We welcomed Randy Simons who will be the interim Commissioner.

Our team consisted of representatives from the Taconic Region: Kevin Chlad (Adirondacks Council), Suzanne Clary (Jay Heritage Center), Nick Matsakis (Friends of Mills/Staatsburgh), Erik Fyfe (Stony Kill Foundation), Mary Ann Williams (Walkway Over the Hudson) and Susan Polikoff (Walkway Over the Hudson). During the day we visited with numerous members of the NY State Assembly and their incredible staff including Deborah Glick, Steve Otis, Anil Beephan Jr. and Al Stirpe. We shared our successes, hopes and ideas.

It was an added honor to meet NY Assemblyman Brian Cunningham who serves on the Economic Development Committee and appreciates how parks stimulate local economies through visitation and heritage tourism.  Sen. Shelley B. Mayer was especially gracious to take time out of her conference schedule to say hello. As Chair of the Education Committee, Sen. Mayer understands how parks and historic sites provide invaluable resources for teachers and students to explore our state and our nation’s rich heritage.

DYK? 2024 is a very special Centennial anniversary for New York State Parks and Historic Sites. In 1924, Governor Alfred E. Smith created the NY State Council of Parks. The system was created for the public under the premise that “access to open spaces and recreational assets is a right, not a privilege, afforded to all.”

Stayed tuned for more anniversary news and events to come on our website.