Big Checks for Big Ideas

Parks & Trails New York has been hitting the road to visit Friends groups that received a Park and Trail Partnership Grant (PTPG) in the fifth round of the program. We not only wanted to hear more about their exciting big ideas and the work they proposed to accomplish but, just as importantly, we wanted to meet the individuals who were planning to race bathtubs through the local town. Yes--you read that right--bathtubs!.

On Tuesday, August 22, PTNY staff traveled to Moravia in the Finger Lakes to present a big check to the Friends of Fillmore Glen State Park. Along with two of our Board members, we hosted a small event to hear from the Friends president, members and park staff, including the Park Manager and the Finger Lakes State Park Regional Director, about the importance of PTPG funding for Fillmore Days, the park’s biggest event of the year. Fillmore Days is a three-day festival that is much more than just a fundraiser for the Friends; it is an opportunity to highlight the value of the park and the important role Friends play in fostering stewardship, volunteerism and programming for the park.

The highlight of the event is a bathtub race from the park down through the main street of Moravia. Teams from the community custom build themed, boxcar-styled vehicles that they push, pull and “row” down the road. According to the Friends and park staff, Involving local vendors, small-businesses and supporters creates a pride that is truly palpable. This is exactly the type of creativity and impact PTNY wants to highlight through our big check presentations.

Later on that day, PTNY staff traveled to Sherburne in the southern Tier to present Rogers Environmental Education Center with its own big check. There, staff, members of the Friends group and Sherburne Mayor Acee shared their personal experiences with Rogers and the benefits the Education Center's exceptional work has on the broader community.

Rogers' grant award, which is going towards new educational exhibits and interpretive programming, perfectly captures the essence of the Park and Trail Partnership Grant program by providing an opportunity for grassroots organizations to self-identify the best way to strengthen their organizations and complement State Parks’ ongoing efforts to revitalize our iconic park system and public lands and afford more opportunities for visitors to engage with and appreciate nature--more important than ever during these challenging times.

Beyond the primary objective of deepening relationships with Friends groups, the big check events have more tangible goals, too, by creating moments that will help us tell the story of the impact of the grant program and Friends groups that we can share with lawmakers in Albany during our next Park Advocacy Day in March. Funding for PTPG is provided through the NYS Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) which improves the quality of life for all New Yorker by protecting our natural resources and creating economic resiliency in our communities.

Enhancing our state parks and historic sites by providing grassroots organizations with funding for programming, events and infrastructure is helping to meet the demands of record visitation on our public lands during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Despite an uncertain fiscal future for New York State caused by the pandemic, we are hopeful that this grant program will continue to be available through a fully-funded EPF. More than ever, we will need to clearly communicate the compelling story that is at the core of the Park and Trail Partnership Grant program.

In the coming weeks, PTNY will be hosting events at Hallock State Park Preserve on Long Island and Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island in the Hudson River near West Point. These partner organizations, similar to those at Fillmore Glen and Rogers, are just a few of the more than two dozen organizations that received funding from this round of PTPG, working to strengthen our public health infrastructure and expand stewardship of our natural and cultural resources.

For a complete list of this year’s awardees, check out the full press release from Governor Cuomo. And if you are interested in seeing more photos of the event at Fillmore Glen, or a recording of the full press event, follow us on Instagram.