A Big Year for Parks and Trails

While New York's parks and trails are well-loved in all seasons, we don't generally think of early January as high time for them. But this year is different, as Governor Andrew Cuomo's annual State of the State address revealed big plans for outdoor recreation, including a fully-funded Environmental Protection Fund and the announcement of a new, statewide trail initiative, the Empire State Trail, that includes funding to Close the Gaps in the Erie and Champlain Canalway Trails.

Empire State Trail

For nearly a decade, PTNY and communities along the statewide Canalway Trail system have called on the Governor and Legislature to provide funding to Close the Gaps in the Erie Canalway Trail and other segments of the system. In 2017, this advocacy paid off, and then some, with the Governor announcing an even bolder vision for New York's trail system, the Empire State Trail. This proposal will fund completion of the Erie and Champlain Canalway Trails, as well as adding a vital trail connection from the North Country to New York City via the Hudson Valley. The Empire State Trail will be the nation's longest state multi-use trail, with more than 750 miles. The Erie Canalway Trail's 360 miles will be a feature attraction and premier destination for outdoor recreation and heritage tourism, but the fully-connected system will open up new opportunities for exploration across the state. PTNY applauds the Governor for this bold commitment to outdoor recreation, and his administration's understanding of the potential that long-distance trails represent for tourism.

Environmental Protection Fund

The state budget agreement reached on March 31, 2016 included an appropriation of $300 million for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). This marked the highest level of funding for the EPF in its 23-year history and put New York in a position of national leadership by ensuring the conservation of critical resources for future generations while creating jobs and making our communities more resilient.

We are happy to report that the Governor has once again proposed an appropriation of $300 million for the EPF for FY2017-18. This level of funding for the EPF will enable environmental needs across the state to be addressed, including land acquisition for trail corridors and parks; municipal parks and waterfront revitalization grants; and state land stewardship and public access to state parks, historic sites, and state forest lands and recreation facilities.

The EPF protects clean air and water, supports local and state parks, trails and farms, and strengthens grassroots Friends organizations.

Among the important programs supported by the EPF over the last two years is the Park and Trail Partnership Program, a $500,000 capacity-building grants program for organizations that promote and support the state parks system. The Park and Trail Partnership Program, administered by Parks & Trails New York in partnership with the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), will unlock the potential of these organizations by increasing their effectiveness, productivity, and volunteer and fundraising capabilities. This will enhance park, trail and historic site stewardship, leading to even greater economic benefits from outdoor recreation and healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities. (See our new report on the impact of Friends groups on our state parks and historic sites.)

Advancing Parks 2020

Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has made investing in the revitalization of the state parks system a priority and a central part of his efforts to promote tourism and grow the state’s economy. Thanks to the commitment of the Governor and Legislature, state parks, under the Governor’s visionary NY Parks 2020 plan, are in the midst of an unprecedented renaissance, with five straight years of significant capital funding to build and restore visitor centers, bath houses and other critical infrastructure.

We expect the Governor to build on his strong commitment with his FY2017-2018 Executive Budget proposal and enable State Parks to continue its progress in addressing the nearly $1 billion backlog in infrastructure and health and safety needs.

2017 Advocacy Agenda Released

PTNY’s 2017 Advocacy Agenda lays out policies and programs that will enhance New York’s role as a national leader in the protection, promotion and enhancement of parks, trails and greenways, and ensure that these natural, recreational and cultural treasures are an integral part of the state’s economic, transportation, health, and environmental strategies. Our budget priorities include the following:

  • Support for the Empire State Trail initiative, which commits to Closing the Gaps in the Erie and Champlain Canalway Trails, and creating a trail connection from NYC to the Canadian Border by 2020
  • Another round of $90 million in Parks 2020 capital funding to address the backlog of infrastructure needs at New York State Parks and Historic Sites
  • A fully funded and sustainable Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) at $300 million