The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)


State parks hit record attendance levels in 2022

- By The Dispatch Staff newsroom@oneidadisp­

NEW YORK >> Gov. Kathy Hochul recently announced annual attendance at state parks, historic sites, campground­s, and trails operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservati­on saw a record 79.5 million visits in 2022. Total visits statewide increased by more than one million compared to the previous year.

“From Niagara Falls to Bear Mountain to Jones Beach, New York’s State Parks offer residents and visitors the opportunit­y to reconnect with the environmen­t, breath in the fresh air, and find solace in their natural surroundin­gs,” Hochul said in a news release from the state. “Our recent investment to revitalize the park system, expand open space, and protect our coastlines will ensure that generation­s to come can enjoy the diverse environmen­t that this state has to offer.”

New York State Park attendance has been steadily climbing for more than a decade, rising nearly 43 percent since 2008. Among the most-visited State Parks in 2022 were Niagara Falls State Park (9.4 million visits), Jones Beach State Park (8.5 million visits), Robert Moses State Park (3.8 million visits), Saratoga Spa (3.5 million visits), Sunken Meadow State Park (3.1 million visits) Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park (3 million visits) and Bear Mountain State Park (2.4 million visits).

New York State Parks Commission­er Erik Kulleseid said, “State Parks is grateful to those who have returned and to those who are discoverin­g what all the State Parks and Historic Sites have to offer. With Governor Hochul’s support, we are working to better welcome these visitors, play a positive role in local economies, and address the challenges of a changing climate.”

Hochul’s proposed FY 2024 budget commits $200 million in capital funding to continue the ongoing transforma­tion of New York’s flagship parks, support critical infrastruc­ture projects, and help meet the goal of powering park facilities with renewable energy by 2030. The budget proposal would also enhance the agency workforce to support a new and expanded Park Police Academy class, the Environmen­tal Bond Act, the Empire State Trail, park administra­tion and site operations. Additional­ly, the $4.2 billion “Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmen­tal Bond Act” will boost funding for climate change mitigation, restoratio­n and flood risk reduction projects, and open space protection to continue to improve stewardshi­p of the park system’s 350,000 acres and 300 miles of coastline.

Empire State Developmen­t Vice President and Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said, “New York’s world-class State Parks are a gem in the state’s travel and tourism crown, from the namesake

waterfalls at Niagara Falls, to the picturesqu­e paths at Watkins Glen, to the legendary lighthouse at Montauk Point. I LOVE NY continues to work with our State Parks partners to encourage travelers from around the world to explore our parks, campground­s and historic sites as part of their next New York getaway.”

New York State Council of Parks Chair Bryan Erwin said, “To give a sense of the scale of these numbers, these attendance records rival and exceed the attendance for most National Parks. And this Governor is meeting the moment in two ways: 1) The Bond Act investment­s will provide key infrastruc­ture to ensure our parks are climate resilient as well as support our increased visitation, and 2) develop and sustain park profession­als to appropriat­ely staff our parks and expand our Park Police presence to insure the safety of all of our patrons.”

Parks & Trails New York Incoming Executive Director Paul Steely White said, “These visitation numbers are truly staggering. Annual attendance at New York State Parks is now five times higher than Yellowston­e, Grand Canyon and Yosemite— combined. Now our task is to ensure that our parks have the resources to accommodat­e this historic demand, and to make certain that the health, environmen­tal and economic benefits are shared by all New Yorkers.”

Open Space Institute President and CEO Kim Elliman said, “These recordbrea­king attendance numbers exemplify the love New Yorkers have for our parks and outdoor spaces and also demonstrat­e a clear need for more park and trail protection and enhancemen­t work to support continuall­y emerging needs. The benefits of parks are universal, and we applaud the administra­tion for their continued commitment to connecting people from all background­s and experience­s to New York’s wonderful natural resources.”

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “As an organizati­on deeply rooted in the mission of making lands and other natural wonders available to the public in the Hudson Valley, we applaud the incredible milestone of 79 million visitors accessing New York’s magnificen­t state parks system. This impressive accomplish­ment highlights the vital role our state and local parks, and conserved lands owned by land trusts across the state, play in providing safe, affordable, uplifting experience­s for all New Yorkers and out-of-state visitors. We deeply thank Governor Hochul and Commission­er Kulleseid for their unparallel­ed leadership in advancing continued investment in our parks and look forward to exploring opportunit­ies for the administra­tion and Legislatur­e to repeat last year’s historic funding levels for parks capital investment.”

 ?? FILE PHOTOS ?? The pavilion at Verona Beach State Park.
FILE PHOTOS The pavilion at Verona Beach State Park.
 ?? ?? A lifeguard looks out over Oneida Lake at Verona Beach State Park.
A lifeguard looks out over Oneida Lake at Verona Beach State Park.

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