PTNY Policies

Advertising Signage in Parks and on Trails

Parks & Trails New York (PTNY) recognizes that a healthy and well-functioning system of parks and trails may require both public and private support for a sustainable future. We understand and appreciate that public recognition satisfies a common human and business need and is likely to encourage individuals and corporations to be generous with their time and resources. Therefore, we do not summarily oppose on-site recognition of private-sector contributions supporting park and trail facilities, activities and upkeep.

However, PTNY feels that careful consideration of any potential advertising, signs or donor recognition is necessary to ensure it is appropriate for a particular park or trail. We recognize that every park and trail throughout New York operates under differing conditions, has unique challenges and is presented with different opportunities. Likewise, the nature of any potential advertising, sign or recognition will differ between proposals. As the impact of signage for a one-day event can be drastically different than permanent signs or plaques, particular consideration should be given to the duration of the proposed recognition. Ultimately, decisions must be made locally on a case-by-case basis. For this reason, we have provided the following points to consider when evaluating any potential advertising, sign or donor recognition:

  1. Location: Would the advertisement, sign or donor recognition be near a parking lot, trailhead, trail junction or other developed facility, such as bathrooms, playgrounds, pavilions or other park buildings? Would the sign, advertisement or donor recognition potentially be intruding upon an area of the park or trail that is particularly valued for being secluded and natural?
  2. Number: How many advertisements, signs or other recognition would be placed in or along the park or trail? In how many separate locations would they be placed in or along the park or trail?
  3. Duration of placement: How long would the advertisement, sign or donor recognition be in place? Would the advertisement, sign or donor recognition be permanent, and if so, would its permanence impede the ability of future generations to solicit public and private support? Would it impede the use or design of the public recreation space in the future? To prevent contention over duration of recognition with donors it is useful to spell out the duration in any communications.
  4. Type of sign or recognition: Is the sign a stand-alone advertisement or donor recognition, or is the recognition incorporated into a part of another sign (e.g., an informational kiosk or mile marker)? Is the recognition a physical part of the space, such as a plaque or even a brick with the contributor’s name on it? Would the sign or advertisement have an electronic or audio component, such as a ticker display or sponsorship of an audio tour?
  5. Size: Would the advertisement, sign or donor recognition be of an appropriate scale for its surroundings? Would the advertisement, sign or donor recognition dominate the surrounding view or would the sign or recognition be subordinate to the surrounding natural or historical landscape?
  6. Color and design: Would the style or color of the advertisement, sign or donor recognition contrast with the surrounding natural or historical environment?
  7. Commercial nature: Would the proposed sign be pure advertising (e.g., “Buy a Ford”), a discreet acknowledgment of support (e.g., “Thanks to our sponsor Ford Motor Company”), or something in between?
  8. Maintenance: Who would be responsible for the cost of maintaining the advertisement, sign or donor recognition? What funds are available to support future maintenance?
  9. Impact of support: Was the support of the recognized corporation or individual instrumental to the development of the park or trail, or specific facility within the park or trail? Was the support provided at a critical time or of a significant scale that allowed for the ultimate success of the sponsored project?
  10. Local regulation or policy: Is the advertisement, sign or donor recognition consistent with all state and local regulations or policies?

ATV Use on Recreational Trails

Motorized off-highway vehicles (OHVs) such as all terrain vehicles (ATVs), dirt bikes, and motorcycles are becoming increasingly popular. With the increase in use of these vehicles comes added pressure to use public lands and facilities such as recreational trails designed for hiking, bicycling, skiing and other non-motorized uses. To exacerbate the problem, owners of ATVs are required to register their vehicles and pay a fee. With the fee comes the expectation that public places should be provided for their use.

Based on PTNY’s research, the use of motorized OHVs on recreational trails creates a number of problems:

  • Erosion, rutting of trail surface, and dust were the physical problems most frequently reported by managers of trails where motorized recreation vehicles were allowed. They also indicated that erosion and rutting are exacerbated when motorized recreation vehicles use trails that are wet.
  • Discouragement of muscle-powered users (walkers, bicyclists, cross country skiers, equestrians) – Some trail manager survey respondents indicated that the presence of motorized vehicles discouraged nonmotorized trail use, while a few felt it had little effect.
  • Rules and regulations and enforcement – Speed limits are often mentioned when discussing how to ensure safe shared trail use and control dust. Some trail managers who responded to the survey felt speed limits were useless because they are so difficult to enforce.

Motorized OHV’s are designed for use on adverse surfaces in rugged terrain. PTNY believes that the design and intended use of motorized OHVs are not compatible with the design and use of recreational trails.

The following policy has been adopted by the Executive Board of Parks & Trails New York:

PTNY generally opposes the use of motorized off-highway vehicles (OHVs) on public recreational trails that are planned, designed or regulated for non-motorized use.

PTNY will not oppose the use of motorized off-highway vehicles (OHVs) on public recreational trails where the community has determined that their use provides an overriding public benefit and where a trail management program is in effect that would reasonably assure enforcement of compatible use.

PTNY supports and encourages state legislation that creates a dedicated fund from the collection of motorized off-highway recreation vehicle registration fees that will be used to develop facilities for February 4, 2005 their use in appropriate areas where they will not conflict with non-motorized users or damage sensitive natural resources.

PTNY supports and encourages state legislation that establishes strong statewide enforcement regulations for use of off-highway vehicles (OHVs) that include more effective penalties such as substantial fines and, under limited circumstances, confiscation, impoundment, or forfeiture.

Park Alienation

PTNY is aware of efforts in New York to convert the recreational use of parkland to other uses, or to restrict public access to parkland. Some conversions are intended to provide a public benefit other than public recreation, while other conversions appear to be attempted without any regard for the public benefit of outdoor recreation. The purpose of this document is to provide a basic understanding of the alienation and conversion of municipal parkland, and to guide PTNY staff and the Board of Directors with developing positions related to individual efforts to alienate or convert parkland.

State-owned parks in New York are protected by statute from conversion to uses other than recreation. However, New York’s municipal parklands are not protected by statute unless there has been an investment of state or federal funding. The public benefit of municipal parkland in New York is often threatened by developers, municipalities and special interest groups seeking to change the park’s recreational use through a process called park alienation. The recreational use of municipal parkland is protected under the “public trust doctrine,” and conversion to nonpark use can only be done with explicit permission from the New York State Legislature.

Parkland acquired or improved with the aid of state funds under the Park and Recreational Land Acquisition Bond Acts of 1960 or 19651 , the Outdoor Recreation Development Bond Act of 19652, the Environmental Quality Bond Act of 19863 , the State Environmental Protection Act of 19934 , or the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act of 19965 is protected by statute. Parkland acquired or improved with state funds may not be sold, disposed of, or used for non-park purposes without the authority of an act of the State Legislature, which shall provide for the “substitution of other lands of equal environmental value and fair market value and reasonably equivalent usefulness.6

Likewise, parkland acquired or improved with the aid of federal funds is protected by section 6(f) of the Land, Water and Conservation Fund Act7 . “No property acquired or developed with assistance under this section shall, without the approval of the Secretary, be converted to other than public outdoor recreation uses. The Secretary shall approve such conversion only if he finds it to be in accord with the then existing comprehensive statewide outdoor recreation plan and only upon such conditions as he deems necessary to assure the substitution of other recreation properties of at least equal fair market value and of reasonably equivalent usefulness and location.”

Unfortunately, municipal parks that have not received federal or state funding are not protected by statute. This parkland may be protected by the “public trust doctrine” which is founded in case law or common law and holds that parkland is subject to a public trust for the benefit of the public. Alienation of parkland that is not protected by statute is guided by case law and is subject to the uncertainties of the political process. Furthermore, mitigation of impacts caused by the alienation of parkland is guided by policy and the recommendations of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) when the alienation does not involve parklands that have been subject to state or federal funding.

OPRHP reviews proposed park alienation actions and provides opinions to the State Legislature. OPRHP has prepared and published a “Handbook on the Alienation and Conversion of Municipal Parkland, April, 2005” that provides guidelines for the evaluation of park alienation activities and defines the alienation process. OPRHP encourages a “no net loss of parkland” policy. As stated in the Handbook, “It is the preference of State Parks that parkland alienation legislation includes a provision for substitute lands for the lands being alienated.”

PTNY recognizes that parkland may be negatively impacted by public projects or programs that serve an important public benefit and that park alienation may be warranted and may occur. PTNY believes it is necessary to establish the following basic policy regarding park alienation to guide the staff and Board in the evaluation of park alienation issues that are brought to PTNY’s attention.


  1. PTNY opposes park alienation for public or private use that is not incidental to public recreation or does not provide a substantial public benefit.
  2. PTNY opposes park alienation that is submitted to the State Legislature for approval that results in a net loss in the amount of parkland, aesthetic value or recreational opportunities for the same population that is served by the affected parkland. Furthermore, PTNY supports due consideration of a net gain in parkland or recreational opportunities as mitigation for the alienation.
  3. PTNY supports a requirement that all parkland alienation bills contain a metes and bounds description of not only the parkland being alienated but also the replacement parkland that is being substituted. *
  4. PTNY supports a complete disclosure of a park alienation action and a proper and timely notification of the public before a park alienation can occur. The alienation proposal should be subjected to a thorough public review process, and a careful evaluation should be completed by an appropriate agency that has established that no feasible or prudent alternative exists for the action that causes the park alienation.
  5. PTNY opposes any park alienation that decreases access to outdoor recreational opportunities by the public with the discontinuance of municipal parklands.
  6. PTNY supports the position that the common and accepted use of municipal land by the public for recreational purposes constitutes implied dedicated parkland that is subject to the public trust doctrine.

*In situations where no substitute land is being provided, and there should be a compelling reason why there isn’t, such as absolutely no land available, then the bill must include language stating that an amount equal to, or greater than, the fair market value of the alienated property must be dedicated for use to make improvements to existing parks in the municipality. If possible, the bill should require that the transfer of these funds must occur before the alienation takes place, or alternatively, the bill could require that the money in lieu of substitute parkland be allocated for specific projects in existing parks.

1 N.Y. Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation Law § 15.09
2 N.Y. Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation Law § 17.09
3 N.Y. Environmental Conservation Law § 52-0907
4 N.Y. Environmental Conservation Law § 54-0909
5 N.Y. Environmental Conservation Law § 56-0309
6 N.Y. Environmental Conservation Law § § 52-0907, 54-0909(1), and 56-0309(12)
7 16 USC 460l-8(f) (3)

Rail Corridor Use

Out-of-Service Rail Corridors
PTNY strongly supports converting out-of-service, abandoned and/or 1 rail corridors to multi-use trails.

Commercial Freight and Passenger Rail Corridors
As rail transportation is environmentally efficient, PTNY does not advocate for the discontinuance of existing commercial freight and passenger rail service to create a trail.

Rail-With-Trail Corridors
In those locations with operating rail service where there is adequate corridor width to ensure safety of trail users and rail service and the surrounding environment can sustain such use, PTNY supports development of rail-with-trail.

Tourist Railroad Corridors
Some rail corridors no longer can support economically viable commercial freight and passenger rail service, but may contain a scenic or historical passenger train providing tourist excursions. Such services can help preserve and illustrate the transportation history of a region.

Conflicting Corridor Uses
PTNY recognizes that there may be conflicting points of view about how future use of rail corridors can best serve transportation, recreational and tourist needs. Whenever possible, supporters of railroad use and trail advocates should seek amicable compromises that achieve each party’s goals and desires.

Considerations for Decision Making
As no generalized conclusion will fit every situation, where there is public debate over the use of a corridor as a tourist railroad or a trail, PTNY will examine each situation on a case-by-case basis. PTNY’s position will be based on consideration of relevant issues including:

  • feasibility of rail-with-trail
  • actual vs. projected ridership vs. projected trail use
  • actual vs. proposed accomplishments of the tourist railroad service
  • amount of public dollars invested and return on investment for all alternatives
  • economic impact of the existing and/or expanded tourist railroad vs. projected economic impact of trail use
  • level of community support for each proposal
1 Railbanking involves an agreement between a railroad and a trail group or governmental entity to use an out-ofservice rail corridor as a trail until it may be needed by a railroad at a future time for rail service.