State Parks and Public Lands
The New York State Park System has come a long way from just over a decade ago, when nearly 100 sites were slated for closure due to past budget cuts. This would have been a devastating outcome never before seen in the state’s history. However, due to the efforts of PTNY and our partners around the state, from that darkness has grown a stunning rebirth, as the New York Works program has invested $1.5 billion in capital funding since 2010 for critical repairs to parks from Long Island to Buffalo and in all regions in between. Park visitation has increased by more than 40 percent over the past decade to nearly 80 million visits a year, underscoring that parks and access to nature are a human necessity.
In addition to providing access to nature and places to recreate, our public lands are also vital economic drivers, boosting the state’s economy by $5 billion annually – leveraging a 9-to-1 return on the state’s investment – and creating 45,000 jobs. The park system is also integral to our climate strategies, protecting critical habitats and improving quality of life and local resilience for millions of New Yorkers.
Investing in the next century for New York’s World-Class State Park System
New York State is at a turning point, as we look to the next century of our state parks system. Our state leaders have a decision to make – do they want to once again allow our iconic system to fall into disrepair, driving away visitors and starting a downward cycle of under-utilization, leading to economic loss and negative health and environmental impacts in communities across the state? Or will we invest in the future of this world-class system, providing residents and visitors with accessible facilities, welcoming diverse users and further enhancing the livability of our communities.
Secure a baseline of $250 million in capital funding for New York State Parks, plus a one-time $500 million infusion for the 2024 Parks Centennial
Parks capital funding allows for the continued revitalization of the system, addressing critical infrastructure needs and expanding opportunities for local recreation in urban and rural communities alike. However, the 100-year-old Parks system needs additional funding to transform flagship parks and address significant long-term challenges in the system. An additional investment of $500 million over the next three years for the Parks Centennial will allow for long-shuttered facilities to be reopened; historic structures to be brought up to modern standards and protected against the impacts of climate change; and key amenities at the most popular parks to meet the demands of the public. This investment will be a down payment against a more than $3.5 billion backlog in capital repairs needed at state parks. Funding will also ensure that OPRHP can meet new mandates to power its facilities with renewable energy sources and ensure that the state’s greenest agency remains that.
Maintain State Parks’ operations budget to ensure increased visitation needs are met
Visitation to our State Parks continues to break records each year, and while OPRHP’s staff levels have increased recently, it is vital that operations funding remains at its current level. Ensuring that the agency has the funds needed to provide a strategic deployment of and that all visitors continue to have access to safe outdoor places for recreation and respite is paramount.
Ensure full and sustainable funding of the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF)
A $400 million appropriation for the EPF will continue New York’s historic investments in addressing environmental needs, including providing resources to environmental justice organizations, conserving land and water, creating new parks and recreation opportunities, and supporting climate adaptation and mitigation projects.
- Maintain the Park and Trail Partnership Grants at $2 million - This competitive grant program supports projects that strengthen non-profit grassroots organizations; enhance public access, stewardship and recreational opportunities; and address barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion at our state parks, historic sites, trails, and public lands across New York. Every year, demand for this program exceeds available funding, and we aim to grow the program to $4 million per year in coming years.
- Maintain the Connect Kids to Parks Grant Program at $3 million - The Connect Kids to Parks Grant program provides students, especially youth from Title 1 communities, with access to nature and history via field trips to state and federal parks, forests, historic sites, and other outdoor recreation areas.
- Increase funding for the Parks, Preservation and Heritage Program - The Parks, Preservation and Heritage Program (Municipal Parks) provides matching grants to projects that plan, acquire, and develop municipal parks and recreational facilities in cities, with a requirement that nearly 40% of funding be directed toward Environmental Justice communities. We hope to see this program grow to $40 million per year in coming years.
Provide $90 million in capital funding for NYS DEC’s Adventure New York program.
The Adventure NY funding addresses a variety of capital needs to improve access to lands managed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, including rehabilitation campgrounds, and upgrades to trails, day use areas, and other recreational facilities. Continuing $90 million in annual investment in the Adventure New York program will further our state’s commitment to the protection and stewardship of our precious open spaces and help ensure our public lands are welcoming and accessible for all.