Ever Upward and Onward
Building upon last year’s commitment to improve and expand outdoor recreation opportunities, 2020 will be another year of continued progress for our environment. Over the last few weeks, the Governor has unveiled several State of State proposals that serve to benefit outdoor enthusiasts, our tourism economy, wildlife, and climate! Plans to preserve 4,000 acres of parkland in the Mid-Hudson Valley, invest $300 million to “Reimagine the Canals”, and a proposed $3 billion bond act to address wetland and habitat restoration and flood reduction through the Governors “Restore Mother Nature” initiative, are all a major win for the environment.
In addition to these visionary plans, we have other exciting things to look forward to this year; notably, the completion of the Empire State Trail. When complete, this $200 million investment in a contiguous multi-use trail network will span 750 miles from New York City north through the Hudson Valley and the Adirondacks to the Canadian border and from the state capital in Albany west along the historic Erie Canal corridor to the shores of Lake Erie in Buffalo. With the creation of this incredible asset, residents from 27 counties will be able to embark on a unique adventure, exploring the State’s unique history, scenery, and wildlife.
Today, the New York State Park System boasts 180 state parks and 35 state historic sites, covering a total of 325,000 acres and showcasing a variety of natural and recreational assets including 1,350 miles of hiking trails, over 8,000 campsites, numerous swimming pools, beaches, boat launches, nature centers and golf courses. The State parks system strengthens New York’s economy, supports public health initiatives, and bolsters our environment. PTNY fully supports all efforts to enhance these incredible resources.
Last week Governor Cuomo announced plans to preserve more than 4,000 acres of State parkland in the Mid-Hudson Valley. Funding will be used to create new trail routes, improve viewsheds, safeguard wildlife habitats, promote connectivity and improve access for visitors.
In addition to the preservation of nearly 2,000 acres in the region that are already underway, an additional 2,000+ acres of open space will be preserved in the Mid-Hudson Valley in 2020. Funding from the State's Environmental Protection Fund and Hudson Highlands Conservation Act would enable the State to expand and enhance Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve, Rockefeller State Park and Fahnestock State Park in the Tanonic Region, as well as Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Schunnemunk State Park, and Sterling Forest State Park in the Palisades Region. Expect new trail routes in Hudson Highlands State and additional recreation opportunities at Minnewaska!
Continued investment in our extensive state park system will energize the individuals, groups, and organizations dedicated to `New York’s communities, boost tourism in across the state, and secure our parks and conservation legacy for future generations.
Reimagine the Canals
When the Erie Canalway was built nearly 200 years ago, the growing interior of the country was connected to America’s seaboard, spurring growth within the canalside communities along its route, and establishing a unique and prosperous interconnected trade network.
A transformation of the Canalway through the Governor’s proposal to “reimagine the canal” will allow for new and innovative ideas to help expand regional tourism offerings, invest in canal communities, and build resiliency. A $100 million economic development fund will be created to support projects that will improve canal side attractions, historic sites, and on-water activities. Keep your eyes out for a new whitewater destination on the north end of Cayuga Lake near Seneca Falls! In addition, a lot of the great ideas that came out of the Reimagine the Canals Task Force will be evaluated and considered to build on the momentum of this initiative.
Restoring Mother Nature
With extreme weather events occurring more rapidly, New York State is prioritizing mitigation and resiliency efforts. A $3 billion Environmental Bond Act has been proposed to prevent further degradation to wetlands and critical habitats, combat invasive species, and institute nature-based solutions to reduce the flooding. Through this proposal, New York can continue to plan for its future, and set goals to address some of the environmental challenges we are currently facing.
Despite these new and exciting efforts, we still have our work cut out for us this year. Progressive pieces of legislation were signed into law by the Governor (the State’s multi-use trails plan immediately comes to mind) however, other legislation that would have moved the alternative transportation needle (such as the legalization of e-bikes) was vetoed, necessitating a renewed call to enact comprehensive e-bike legislation, as reaffirmed by the Governor.
2020 will be a year of reinforcement— standing by our commitment to protecting and strengthening our outdoor recreation economy. To further these efforts, PTNY and partner organizations will be requesting an increase in funding for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) in the 2020-2021 State budget. Funding from the EPF enables grassroots Friends organizations to maintain and enhance our state parks system, it offers funding for critical environmental programming, historic sites, and stewardship efforts, as well as funding for the New York State Regional Economic Development Council awards, spurring economic and community development throughout the State.
To maintain New York’s competitive advantage as a state and an environmental leader, we need to be diligent and carry out these initiatives that improve our economy, quality of life, and public health. Continued support for these initiatives require vocal, enthusiastic supporters! If that sounds like you, join us on March 2, 2020 for Parks Advocacy Day and March 16, 2020 for Trails Advocacy Day to participate in these important discussions about the future of New York's environment.