Why NYS Parks & Historic Sites Matter
New York’s Legacy
The legacy of New York’s park system is unparalleled. New York is home to such iconic parks and historic sites as Niagara Falls, the oldest state park in the country; Olana, the 19th century home of Hudson River School artist Frederic Edwin Church; and Jones Beach, a world-class swimming destination visited by twice as many people as visit Yellowstone. Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site is the first property acquired with public funds for the express purpose of historic preservation and patriotic visitation. More than 62 million visitors enjoy New York’s state parks and historic sites.
Today, the New York State Park System includes 180 state parks and 35 state historic sites, covering a total of 325,000 acres. The park system includes a valuable collection 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. This collection of resources contributes significant benefits to New York State’s economy, health, environment and history.
New York State Parks generate substantial net economic benefits for the people and economy of the Empire State. PTNY’s 2009 report, The NYS Parks System: An Economic Asset to the Empire State, showed that on a statewide basis, direct spending by OPRHP and spending by visitors to state parks supports up to $1.9 billion in output and sales, $440 million in employment income, and 20,000 jobs.
Clearly, the impact of the State Park System on New York’s economy is sizeable: the benefits exceed the direct costs of maintaining the state parks many times over. The benefit-to-cost ratio is more than 5-to-1—more than $5 in benefits for every $1 in costs.
In addition, the State Park System improves the quality of life in New York and thereby influences business location decisions and the ability of the state to attract a high-quality workforce.
More than 60% of New York adults and 32% of New York children ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese. Our state parks improve health outcomes by providing all New Yorkers with access to low-cost, close-to-home, recreational opportunities. Whether it’s walking or biking on trails, swimming at beaches, or kayaking on lakes, New Yorkers can be active and get fit affordably at our state parks.
Our state parks and historic sites are also hosts to scenic viewsheds, geologic features, and both common and rare flora and fauna. Over 100 species of native mammals, tens of thousands of species of insects, hundreds of fish species, 70 species of amphibians, and more than 300 species of birds find a home in New York parks.
New York’s state parks are critical in protecting the state’s ecosystem and biodiversity. State parks and historic sites are home to more than 900 occurrences of 358 different rare species and natural community types. For 104 rare species and natural community types, the OPRHP properties support the only known occurrences of these on state public lands. Seven of these species or community types have just one known existing occurrence in the entire state.
Cultural and Historical Benefits
New York's historic sites tell the story of our rich cultural heritage. Visitors can experience the many facets of New York State history through tours, storytelling, exhibits, cooking demonstrations, military drills, and encampments. There are countless ways to explore our past. State historic sites protect our shared heritage for current and future generations, from Revolutionary War battles to the Underground Railroad to women’s rights.