A Column of News & Comment by Senator James L. Seward
As families and individuals look for ways to enjoy the wonderful summer weather, people need to look no further than our local state parks. July is Park and Recreation Month across the nation and here in New York, we have many great reasons to celebrate.
Our public parks and state lands are among our greatest resources, particularly in upstate, and they fulfill a number of roles. They are a strong source of tourist dollars, drawing people from other parts of New York, neighboring states, and across the nation. Along with generating money for the state, our parks also help support many other local businesses, from small grocery stores to souvenir shops selling locally produced keepsakes, to farm stands offering homegrown fruits and vegetables.
New York State parks are also affordable getaways for many New Yorkers. Most New York State parks charge a per vehicle fee of between $6 and $10 for day use. While there may be some additional charges for certain amenities, the price of admission is very reasonable. Even better, users can purchase an Empire Pass card which provides unlimited day access to most state parks and recreation facilities for just $80 a year. That’s less than a one night stay at most hotels. There are also special free and reduced rate programs available for individuals with permanent disabilities and senior citizens.
Additionally, New York State offers what is known as the Patriot Plan. Any member of the New York State Militia or any branch of the New York State National Guard or military reserves currently serving on active duty in support of the war on terrorism is eligible for one free Empire Pass card for use by his or her immediate family during deployment and/or for his or her own use when returning home.
Just like our state’s melting pot population, our parks and state lands are extremely diverse. Outdoor recreational pursuits like hiking, swimming, fishing, and camping abound at the vast majority of our state parks. Tennis, disc golf, biking, horseback riding, and hunting are other endeavors enjoyed by many parks and state land users. Challenging golf courses can also be found at nearly twenty of our parks.
Along with experiencing nature in all of its splendor, a great number of special events and educational activities are scheduled at our state parks on a regular basis. Park-goers can take part in historic tours, compete in Olympic style family contests, witness magic, and comedy shows, learn about astronomy, make arts and crafts projects, and even train the family dog.
New York’s past is also on display at state historic sites that dot the landscape. Here in the 51st senate district sightseers can visit:
- Herkimer Home in Little Falls – the estate that once belonged to the courageous Revolutionary War hero, General Nicholas Herkimer;
- Hyde Hall in Cooperstown – one of the largest domestic structures built in the U.S. between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars;
- John Burroughs Memorial in Roxbury – the last resting place of this famous literary naturalist which offers magnificent views of the Catskill Mountains.
Upgrades and improvements also take place at our state parks on a regular basis. I have helped direct state funding to a number of our area parks to preserve, repair, and develop these gems so they will continue to be here for generations to come.
Information on all of our state’s wonderful parks can be found on-line through the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation website at www.parks.ny.gov. The website includes directions to all of the state’s parks along with hours of operation, events calendars, and even downloadable trail maps. The website can also be used to purchase an Empire Passport and reserve a campsite for an overnight adventure.
I hope everyone has the opportunity this summer to experience New York’s natural beauty by visiting one or more of our state parks.