State and Local Parks

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Adecade ago, many of our most cherished parks and historic sites were on the brink of closing. Parks & Trails New York led the fight to protect these outdoor spaces from severe budget cuts so that they could remain open and accessible to the public. Those efforts and a subsequent PTNY report on the dire capital needs of parks led to the creation of the NY Parks 2020 plan in 2011 and more than $900 million being invested in our State Parks over the last decade, resulting in the advancement of 300 improvement projects at over 100 parks and historic sites.

This historic reinvestment in our park system, stemming from PTNY’s advocacy, has brought about an unprecedented renaissance and revitalization of our natural and cultural treasures. The park system now enjoys nearly 80 million visits annually, contributing nearly $5 billion to the state’s economy and creating 54,000 jobs.

In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic caused park visitation to skyrocket, the value of our parks was once more in the limelight. Parks can no longer be viewed as a luxury – they are an essential aspect of our state’s public health infrastructure, acting as sanctuaries in time of uncertainty, providing a safe place for individuals and families to maintain physical and mental health, and supplying space for people to spend time with family and friends and find comfort in nature.

Unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to these essential outdoor resources. The pandemic has brought to light the inequalities that exist regarding access to parks and greenspace and shown that disparities in public health reach far beyond access to medical care. This has revived our focus on ensuring ample opportunities exist for safe, local recreation so that all New Yorkers have access to a park within walking distance of their home.

New York has one of the largest and most diverse state park systems in the nation. Now, more than ever, we are seeing the inherent value of our treasured park system. A decade of reinvestment generated record visitation to our public lands. Now, the state needs to continue its investment, while providing the park system with the resources to manage increased visitation. For PTNY, this means a renewed commitment to our mission; not only for state parks and historic sites, but green spaces of all kinds, including in neighborhoods across our state.

Our Vision

  • New York’s State Parks System is properly and firmly funded to ensure it is protected and revitalized for future generations
  • Grant opportunities and secure, long-term funding are made available for grassroots volunteer organizations that steward public green space to carry out necessary projects and programs at their sites
  • Communities across the state are protected from the unjust loss of parkland by the creation of a standard review process for parkland alienation
  • Obstacles to volunteerism are removed, including different volunteer agreements with different agencies, allowing non-profit organizations that support our state parks and public lands to more readily recruit volunteers, ensure volunteer opportunities are accessible for all New Yorkers, and establish a core group of individuals that support our state park system

Top Priorities

Maintain or expand State Parks’ operations budget to ensure increased visitation needs are met

Support OPRHP’s operations budget at a level that state parks and historic sites can continue to realize their potential as treasured destinations and economic engines for local communities. Provide state agencies responsible for administering the EPF and implementing important environmental and public health programming with sustainable operations funding.

Maintain capital investment and modernization programs

Ensure adequate funding for capital investments to sustain the restoration and revitalization of State Parks’ aging infrastructure, including supporting a visioning plan for state park and historic site expansions, updates, and construction in order to continue improving visitor experience, expanding recreation opportunities and rejuvenating deteriorating facilities.

UPDATE: Capital funding for the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation was passed at $440 million for 2021-2024. Capital funding for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was passed at $75 million.

Facilitate a more rigorous process for the taking of parkland, or park “alienation”

Expedite the passage of legislation that creates a more stringent process for park alienation that holds the government accountable and provides transparency, specifically as it relates to the acquisition of replacement land, adequate monitoring, and enforcement of approved projects.


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Other Priorities

Continue to amplify the impact of grassroots organizations that steward public green space through Park and Trail Partnership Grants

Maintain the Park and Trail Partnership Grant at $1 million to support projects to strengthen Friends groups and enhance public access, stewardship and recreational opportunities at state parks, historic sites, trails, and public lands across New York.

UPDATE: The Environmental Protection Fund was passed at $300 million and included $1 million for the Park and Trail Partnership Grant

Continue to expose students to nature through the Connect Kids to Parks Grant Program

Maintain the Connect Kids Grant Program at $2 million to continue to unite students, especially youth from Title 1 communities, with nature and history via reimbursement for field trips to state and federal parks, forests, historic sites, fish hatcheries and other outdoor recreation areas.

UPDATE: The Environmental Protection Fund was passed at $300 million and included $2 million for the Connect Kids to Parks Program

Create and expand opportunities for equitable access to parks for residents in underserved areas

Support the development of a state-funded open space program which facilitates and provides for the acquisition, creation, expansion, improvement, conservation, and protection of open space areas in our cities and beyond.

Encourage green energy projects at parks while protecting natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities

Support actions that expedite the siting of in-park, small, green energy facilities, where appropriate, that will help to make parks energy self-sufficient, offset the carbon imprint of parks and park users, and adaptively reuse for such purposes existing paved and built upon areas. Make sure there are adequate protections to prevent such facilities from impairing the visual quality of any park or its natural resources, or reducing its use for outdoor recreation.

Galvanize community stewardship of parks and historic sites by simplifying requirements for volunteers working on state lands

Support the creation of a standard, universal form for volunteers working on state lands and remove complicated permitting processes, including requirements that long-term volunteers register each year and pay fees for volunteer registration.

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