New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation (S.4416B/A.5035B) directing the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) to develop: “a plan for a comprehensive statewide system of non-motorized multi-use trails consisting of a network of non-motorized primary corridors linked to and enhanced by regional and local non-motorized multi-use trails.”
State Parks is instructed to identify new multi-use trail opportunities “including, but not limited to, transportation (rail, canal, trolley) corridors existing, abandoned or under consideration to be abandoned; under-utilized or closed roads; utility corridors and natural corridors such as waterways and waterfronts.” » Continue Reading.
In order to cut a lot more trees on the Forest Preserve for new snowmobile corridors, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the Attorney General’s Office have announced that they will appeal July’s court ruling against the State and in favor of Protect the Adirondacks.
That ruling by a 4-1 court majority declared that the extent of tree cutting for snowmobile trail construction, when considered cumulatively, violated our state’s constitutional limit on destruction of timber on the Forest Preserve “to a material degree” (Article XIV, Section 1, NYS Constitution, and court interpretations). » Continue Reading.
There are also a few significant errors that should be addressed and, most importantly, we’d like to try to answer the question posed by the recent, proposed Santanoni legislation – why might OPRHP be a better state steward than DEC? » Continue Reading.
We all have a tendency to wrest failure from the jaws of success. We either don’t recognize or admit when we are enjoying success, we get so wrapped up in details that we don’t see the big picture, or in many cases different people may view success very differently. In the case of a bill that comes up repeatedly, year after year, in the State Legislature, perhaps all of these are true.
The bill is simple. It would change the status quo by taking Camp Santanoni in Newcomb away from the legal jurisdiction of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and confer that responsibility it to the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). » Continue Reading.
New York State is reminding snowmobilers to ride responsibly and exercise caution.
Everyone operating a snowmobile should be familiar with safe riding practices and all applicable laws, rules and regulations. The best way to learn is by taking a snowmobile safety course. To find a course, click here. A safety certificate is required for youth between ages 10 and 18. » Continue Reading.
New York Sea Grant, a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, and New York State Parks are sponsoring a day-long workshop for those interested in starting a new watercraft inspection program or in standardizing an existing water-based steward program that includes watercraft inspection.
The Watercraft Inspection Steward Program Leaders Workshop will be held on Friday, May 1 from 10am to 4pm as part of the 32nd Annual Conference Celebrating Citizen Science in Hamilton, NY. » Continue Reading.
The recognizable logos of our individual New York state agencies, symbolic of each agency mission and purpose, suddenly appear to be endangered, or extinct. They have lasted in many cases for 40 years or longer.
For instance, there was the familiar round NYS Department of Environmental Conservation logo, quite attractive really, with symbols indicative of its mission to protect our waters, our air, our land, and our mountains. As far as I know, the DEC logo dates to the agency’s very creation in law back in 1972. It must have an interesting origin story. And it was ubiquitous until late last year, appearing on DEC headquarters and many regional buildings. On searches in vain for it now on the DEC website. I had to eventually Google it.
It’s state budget time, and the members of regional advisory committees on open space conservation from the Adirondacks to Niagara and Long Island will be watching that fraction of one percent of the state budget called the Environmental Protection Fund. Will the EPF continue to recover from the recessionary influenza it caught in 2009?
New York State’s extraordinary three million acre Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, and its extensive State Park and Historic area system (330,000 acres) outside of these Parks are two big reasons why the state has been a national leader in conserving forests and open space since the 19th century.
Another is nearly million acres conserved through the use of conservation easements on private lands. The EPF and spending from the 1996 $1.75 billion Clean Water/Air Bond Act (expended years ago) has funded this growth: 85% growth in conservation easements since 1992, 5% growth in the Forest Preserve during that time span. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Board for Historic Preservation recommended the addition of 33 properties, resources and districts to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Among the properties slated for inclusion are Northbrook Lodge on Osgood Pond near Paul Smiths in Brighton, NY and the John Losee House, in Watertown.
The State and National Registers are the official lists of buildings, structures, districts, landscapes, objects and sites significant in the history, architecture, archeology and culture of New York State and the nation. Said to be the the first parcel of land sold on Osgood Pond, Northbrook Lodge was built by renowned Great Camp builder Benjamin Muncil in the 1920s for Canadian Senator Wilfred L. McDougald, a medical doctor. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Board for Historic Preservation has recommended the addition of 20 properties, resources, and districts to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Just one of the recommendations is located in the Adirondack Park, St. James Episcopal Church in Lake George. Just five are located North of the Mohawk River.
“Survival of these noteworthy places is crucial in preserving the great diversity of New York’s communities,” said Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “Placing these landmarks on the State and National Registers of Historic Places will offer well-deserved recognition along with tools to help them last into the future.” » Continue Reading.
Volunteers can now sign up for the second annual “I Love My Park Day” on May 4th – a statewide effort to help clean up and beautify New York’s state parks and historical sites. At last year’s event, thousands of New Yorkers pitched in to paint, plant, clean, build, and make repairs across the state.
This year’s volunteer effort is especially important as many parks are still recovering from damage caused by Hurricanes Sandy and Irene. New York’s parks are one of our state’s most treasured assets, and this event helps ensure that New Yorkers and visitors to our state can continue to enjoy and appreciate New York’s natural beauty.
To find an event near you and sign up, click here.
Organizations throughout the state will celebrate New York history during this year’s New York Heritage Weekend on May 19th & 20th. Now in its 3rd year, the weekend will offer special programs, discounted or free admission to sites and events that celebrate national, state or local heritage. Guided hikes, local history festivals, historic garden events, open historic houses, and events that explore all kinds of New York culture and history are on tap. Last year Heritage Weekend hosted 166 Heritage Weekend events with 143 federal, state, and private organizations. For a full searchable listing of events, and maps see www.heritageweekend.org . » Continue Reading.
Public wild lands protected by law in New York State can fall under the public jurisdiction of a variety of state agencies. Some of them are part of the system of state parks administered by the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). In northern Saratoga County and across the Hudson River in Warren County lie more than 4,000 acres of beautiful and protected public wild land, part of the Moreau Lake State Park. Much of this land was acquired by the nonprofit Open Space Institute from Niagara Mohawk, and then sold to the public in 1998.
Moreau Lake State Park tripled in size at that time, and is now the largest state park in the region. The six million-acre Adirondack Park north of Moreau Lake, of course, has a completely different legislative history and legal context. It is not part of the OPRHP system of state parks. This past week, I joined an enthusiastic group of state park officials, staff, park friends, volunteers and concerned citizens at Moreau Lake State Park. The occasion was an Earth Day ribbon cutting at the park’s new nature center, led by NYS Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. Moreau Lake State Park’s director, his educational staff and the volunteers of Friends of Moreau Lake were given appropriate credit for this new space and added capacity to work with school groups, some of the 400,000 annual visitors to this park. The facility “showcases State Parks’ commitment to environmental education…shared by experienced and passionate outdoor educators,” said the Chair of the Saratoga-Capital District State Park Commission Heather Mabee.
This was visible progress. I once worked as a part-time naturalist and recreation staffer at Moreau Lake and Saratoga Spa State Parks, so it was gratifying to see the greatly improved educational facilities, interpretive exhibits, and dedicated staff that did not exist in the mid-1980s. On the other hand, even in those days I experienced a strong connection to the Adirondack Mountains and the solitude and beauty of the wilderness each time I went to Moreau for a program or a hike. The forests at Moreau do, in fact, act as a transition between the Appalachian oak-pine forests and the northern mixed hardwood forests of the Adirondacks, while the elevation gains to the park’s ridge trails resemble those on many Adirondack hikes.
I was invited to the ribbon cutting for a different reason. Four years ago, Saratoga County Water Authority’s water intake and pipeline from the Hudson River were constructed through a section of Moreau Lake State Park, in violation, we felt, of our State Constitution’s “forever wild” clause that protects the Forest Preserve as defined in State law. Saratoga County is one of 16 counties in the state that fall within the legal definition of Forest Preserve. The vast majority of Forest Preserve lies within the boundaries of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, but some falls outside these boundaries in the named counties.
Moreau Lake State Park was no legal exception, and it certainly has public wild lands characteristic of the Forest Preserve, so we challenged OPRHP’s allowance of the county water line’s construction through parts of this park. As readers know, the State Constitution’s Article 14 states that lands constituting the forest preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands,” and “shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private…” The Saratoga County Water Authority, a public corporation, had, in our view, unconstitutionally taken parts of Forest Preserve at Moreau Lake State Park.
Ultimately, the water line was constructed. Although the coalition did not go to court on these grounds, we came to a legally binding agreement with OPRHP that commited $300,000 of public funds to build educational facilities, like the park’s nature center; other funds to add to the park’s wild land acreage; and a commitment to manage large segments of the park as if it were Forest Preserve – although OPRHP is reluctant to name it what I think it truly is. A professional management plan is in place at Moreau, most of the wild land is managed appropriately as Park preserve land, and there is a visible educational and passive recreational emphasis at the park. There are well-advertised hikes, an educational staff is in place, and an active friends group helps the small staff serve the public, including area schools and youth groups.
In short, I am glad we reached the agreement we did. On the other hand, vigilance is still called for. All state agencies responsible for New York’s “wild forest land” should understand and embrace those responsibilities, and resist any kind of taking and exploitation of our wilderness for commercial or expedient ends. After all, our wilderness is a big part of what distinguishes New York State; and our “forever wild” Constitution is the envy of every other state, and every other country on earth.
Photos: Hemlock grove; springtime on the trails; nature center at Moreau Lake State Park.
The New York State Snomobile Association (NYSSA) has partnered with JIMAPCO, makers of road maps and mapping software, to provide snowmobilers with an online snowmobile trail guide. The online map was derived from the trail information provided by the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The map includes all corridor and secondary trails funded through the NYS Snowmobile Trail Fund that have been mapped by GPS so far. » Continue Reading.