Category Archives: land preservation

Marriott Bonvoy Launches Marketing Partnership with National Park Foundation

Grand Canyon National Park, hiking the South Kaibab Trail. Marriott Bonvoy, Marriott International’s travel program, has just formed a marketing partnership with the National Park Foundation, the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service. The introduction of a dedicated travel planning website makes it simple for members to take advantage of discounted rates for stays at Marriott’s 406 properties located near national parks, as well as the option to redeem points for America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Passes and to donate points to the NPF. The website will also provide travel tips and inspiration from Marriott Bonvoy Traveler, offering trip planning guides from local experts. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

During these extraordinary times, more and more Americans are seeking to escape their homes and spend time in the great outdoors. Marriott Bonvoy, Marriott International’s travel program, has just formed a marketing partnership with the National Park Foundation (NPF), the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service. The introduction of a dedicated travel planning website makes it simple for members to take advantage of discounted rates for stays at Marriott’s 406 properties located near national parks, as well as the option to redeem points for America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Passes and to donate points to the NPF. The website will also provide travel tips and inspiration from Marriott Bonvoy Traveler, offering trip planning guides from local experts.

Drive-to vacations and getaways serve as a popular option for Americans looking to embark on local adventures. According to the National Park Foundation, most Americans live within 100 miles of a national park. With 419 national park sites in the United States–and at least one national park in every state–Marriott Bonvoy members can plan a national park road trip earning points for stays at Marriott properties throughout their journey toward free nights for future trips and qualifying nights toward elite status.

“In 1916, legislation creating the National Park Service was enacted. The noble vision behind the act has provided generations of Americans and visitors abroad the gift of experiencing our country’s greatest treasures,” said Brian King, Global Officer, Digital, Distribution, Revenue Strategy & Global Sales, Marriott International. “We are thrilled to offer Marriott Bonvoy members a convenient way to plan road trips and explore historical sites and national wonders with their friends and families with this one-of-a-kind travel partnership. The opportunity to experience breathtaking scenery in pristine wilderness settings while giving back to the National Park Foundation is invaluable and will help preserve parks for future adventure seekers.”

Examples of Marriott properties near national parks include Springhill Suites Springdale Zion National Park in Utah and Courtyard Gatlinburg Downtown and Fairfield Inn & Suites Gatlinburg Downtown near Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Members can easily plan their national park getaways by visiting the website. From there, they can access travel-related articles from Marriott Bonvoy Traveler, book their desired property and receive the best member rates which start as low as $99 per night, redeem points for annual park passes and donate up to $500 worth of points to the National Park Foundation. Donations will help NPF in its mission to protect and enhance America’s national parks for current and future generations.

“National parks have something for everyone, and we can all play a role in helping to preserve them,” said Stefanie Mathew, Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships at the National Park Foundation. “The National Park Foundation is thankful to Marriott Bonvoy for not only offering members a nearby place to rest their head after a day full of park adventures, but also the support to help ensure these treasured natural and cultural sites are protected now and into the future.”

America’s national parks offer endless opportunities for enjoyment for everyone from first time visitors to experienced park enthusiasts. For the best experience possible, travelers should #RecreateResponsibly and plan ahead by visiting the National Park Service website.

For travelers who are not members of Marriott Bonvoy but want to take advantage of the discounted member rates, Marriott Bonvoy is free and easy to join here.

Marriott Bonvoy, Marriott International’s travel program, comprises the company’s portfolio of 30 hotel brands and home rental offering Homes & Villas by Marriott International. Members can earn and redeem points for stays and accelerate the points they earn with co-branded credit cards from JP Morgan Chase and American Express. The program offers exclusive member experiences and destination tours and adventures on Marriott Bonvoy Moments. When members book direct on Marriott.com they receive perks including free and enhanced Wi-Fi and exclusive member-only rates, and on the Marriott app they enjoy mobile check-in and checkout, Mobile Requests and, wherever available, Mobile Key.

Members earn points when staying at any of the more than 7,400 participating hotels globally. They can redeem points toward free nights at Marriott International brands ranging from The Ritz-Carlton, The St. Regis, W Hotels, Marriott Hotels and Westin to Aloft, AC Hotels by Marriott, Courtyard and Residence Inn. In addition, members residing in the U.S. can accelerate the number of points they can earn and enjoy other benefits with co-branded credit cards from JPMorgan Chase and American Express. Members also achieve higher levels of elite status and benefits the more nights they stay at participating hotels. To learn more and enroll in Marriott Bonvoy, visit https://www.marriott.com/loyalty/member-benefits/member.mi.

To enroll for free or for more information about Marriott Bonvoy, visit MarriottBonvoy.com. To download the Marriott app, go here. Travelers can also connect with Marriott Bonvoy on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

The National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks and nonprofit partner to the National Park Service. Chartered by Congress in 1967, the National Park Foundation raises private funds to help protect more than 84 million acres of national parks through critical conservation and preservation efforts and connect all Americans with their incomparable natural landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich history. Find out more and become a part of the national park community.

To learn more about the National Park Foundation and Marriott Bonvoy marketing partnership visit https://hotel-deals.marriott.com/national-parks/.

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NYS to Invest $300 Million to “Reimagine” Erie Canal, Expand Recreational Activities, Finish 750-Mile Empire State Trail

As part of the $300 million plan to “Reimagine” the Erie Canal, a 750-mile Empire State Trail will be completed, including closing gaps of Erie Canalway that makes possible the annual  eight-day, 400-mile, Cycle the Erie bike tour (registration now open) © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

This is huge for New York State’s tourism and recreational opportunities: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s is proposing a $300 million plan to reimagine the Erie Canal by creating recreational activities on the Canal to boost tourism and recreational fishing, mitigate flooding, enhance irrigation and restore wetlands. 

“When the Erie Canal was created in the 19th century it set the state and the nation on a path to prosperity, and this year we will repurpose the canal to fit our state’s 21st century needs,” Governor Cuomo said. “This bold and visionary plan to transform this historic waterway will build on the success of the Empire State Trail (750 miles of connected bikeways), grow tourism across Upstate New York, improve resilience of today’s Canal communities and ensure the economic sustainability of the waterway into the future.”

“The canals have played a crucial role in New York’s history and growth, and with the implementation of these new exciting projects, the canals will remain a vital force and make a positive contribution to the economic well-being and quality of life in the 225 communities they travel through,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.

A first phase of funding starting this year – through the New York Power Authority Board which oversees the Canal Corporation as a subsidiary –  includes a $100 million economic development fund to invest in communities along the Canal and a separate $65 million investment in solutions that will help prevent ice jams and related flooding in the Schenectady area.

The remaining $135 million of the plan’s funding will subsequently be allocated to research recommended by the Reimagine Task Force, as well as to solutionsrelated to flood mitigation, invasive species prevention and ecosystem restoration.

New Economic Development Fund for Canal Communities

In the first phase of the program, a $100 million economic development fund will support projects that adaptively reuse canal infrastructure to enhance water recreation, tie the Canal’s new recreational improvements to the Governor’s Empire State Trail, celebrate historic canal structures, and develop unique canalside attractions and activities. Roughly $25 million of that will be allocated immediately to a set of initial projects:

Connecting Communities: The “Brockport Loop” project in Monroe County will connect SUNY College at Brockport to the Empire State Trailand the village of Brockport through the transformation of a canal guard-gate into a pedestrian bridge and overlook, with a supporting grant of $2 million from the Ralph Wilson Foundation. 

Celebrating “Iconic Infrastructure”: Interactive, hydro-powered illumination of Canal “movable dams” – initially in Amsterdam and Canajoharie in the Mohawk River valley – will celebrate the Canal’s heritage and its history as an engineering marvel.

Expanding Water Recreation: A new whitewater destination, at the north end of Cayuga Lake near Seneca Falls, will rely on existing water control infrastructure to construct an active water sports course adjacent to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, to increase eco-tourism and sport visitors to the region.

Adapting Industrial Property for New Uses: Winner of the Reimagine the Canals competition, a canalside pocket neighborhood, will be developed by Madison County in Central New York at a former industrial property in Canastota along the Old Erie Canal – demonstrating a new model for 21st century canalside living.

Developing Destination Accommodations: The historic Guy Park Manor, on the Mohawk River in Amsterdam, will be reborn as a hospitality destination and a pedestrian bridge constructed across the already-existing Canal lock will provide access to additional overnight accommodation along the Empire State Trail on the opposite side of the river.

World-Class Fishing and Restored Wetlands 

To create world-class fishing in Western New York, the new plan recommends managing water releases from the Canal to enhance fish habitat, improve angling opportunities, and extend the fall fishing season in Lake Ontario tributaries. It also includes funding to expand public fishing access along key streams in Orleans, Monroe and Niagara Counties. In addition, it identifies a program to divert Canal water to restore and re-nourish wetlands in Central New York that were compromised a century ago by the Canal’s construction. This will allow areas in close proximity to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, a migratory stopover for more than 1 million birds each year, to be significantly enhanced to further attract naturalists, locals, and visitors from throughout the region and beyond. 

Ideas in this plan originated from the Reimagine the Canals Task Force recommendations,  launched by Governor Cuomo in May of 2019 to pursue a comprehensive investigation of how the 195-year-old Erie Canal could be reimagined for the 21st century. The Reimagine the Canals Task Force Report  was just released.

The Task Force engaged with municipal leaders, stakeholders, local business owners, scientists and other experts, along with community members, to identify opportunities and solutions that support a new vision for future investments in the waterway. Many of the ideas that the Task Force explored came from the completed Reimagine the Canals competition, held last year by the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation. SUNY’s Rockefeller Institute of Government, on behalf of the Task Force, conducted a series of outreach sessions during the summer in five canal communities – Lockport, Brockport, Schenectady, Utica and Syracuse – to solicit new ideas from the public at large. Ideas were also solicited on a Reimagine the Canals website, offering more distant canal users an opportunity to provide their views to the Task Force.

The “Reimagine” initiative builds on successful efforts by Governor Cuomo to invest in the canal corridor, including the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative and successful Taste NY program, which have stoked new industries, businesses and housing in canal communities. Harnessing the Canal’s full potential to attract more tourism and recreation is a key focus of the Initiative. Governor Cuomo and state agency and authority staff will collaborate with Empire Line communities and continue to consult with Task Force members and other stakeholders to ensure the success of projects as they move forward. 

There are 1.6 million trips taken annually on the Erie Canal Trailway, the former towpath used by mules and horses to pull barges in the canals’ early days. The Trailway is part of Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Trail, which at 750 miles will be the largest state multi-use trail network when completed in late 2020. Governor DeWitt Clinton began work on the original Erie Canal on July 4, 1817. 

In addition to investing $300 million in the Canal System, there are also plans to create two new state parks in the Hudson Valley, add 4,000 acres of land to parks and introduce a $3 billion “Restore Mother Nature” bond act.

Meanwhile, registration has opened for the 22nd Annual Cycle the Erie, eight-day 400-mile, fully supported biking/camping trip, from Buffalo to Albany, operated by Parks & Trails NY, taking place July 12-19, 2020. For information on Cycle the Erie Canal, call Parks & Trails New York, 518-434-1583, email eriecanaltour@ptny.org or visit www.ptny.org/cycle-the-erie-canal.

(See our series on Cycle the Erie, at goingplacesfarandnear.com)

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NYS Completes Largest Addition to Adirondack Forest Preserve in a Century: 20,758 acre purchase of Boreas Ponds Tract

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the completion of the state’s largest Adirondack land acquisition in more than 100 years, with the purchase of the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract. This is the final acquisition in a series of land purchases the state has completed under a 2012 agreement with The Nature Conservancy to conserve 69,000 acres of land previously owned primarily by the former Finch, Pruyn & Company paper company. The Tract is located primarily in the town of North Hudson in Essex County, south of the High Peaks Wilderness Area.

Governor Cuomo also sent a letter to the Adirondack Park Agency requesting the agency begin the classification process for the Boreas Ponds Tract. Since 2010, through the Governor’s efforts to promote recreation in the Adirondacks, tourism-related employment is up nearly eight percent, tourism spending is up 10 percent and visitation is up 15 percent in the Adirondack Park.

“The Adirondack Forest Preserve is a national treasure, and adding nearly 21,000 acres to the Preserve by completing the acquisition of the former Finch lands will benefit the region for generations to come,” said Governor Cuomo. “By acquiring this remarkable tract, we are helping to conserve the region’s natural beauty while also creating new economic opportunities for communities in the park. This will provide even more unparalleled settings for outdoor tourism and recreation, and I encourage New Yorkers to visit the region and see what they’ve been missing.”

The state purchase the tract with $14.5 million from the Environmental Protection Fund, providing the resources necessary to protect this treasured resource and its remote character, while expanding outdoor recreation opportunities including hunting, hiking, paddling and wildlife observation. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is in the process of developing interim plans to provide trails, parking lots and waterway access sites for public use in the summer. With this announcement, the public may access and recreate on the lands and waters by non-motorized means only.

The Nature Conservancy purchased 161,000 acres in 2007 from Finch Paper Holdings LLC, the company that purchased all of Finch, Pruyn & Company’s assets. In 2010, the state purchased conservation easements on 89,000 acres of these former Finch lands. In 2012, Governor Cuomo announced the planned acquisition of the remaining 65,000 acres of former Finch lands in fee, along with 4,000 acres of other Nature Conservancy lands. Under the agreement with The Nature Conservancy, the property was sold to the State in a phased five-year contract. Using the EPF, the State paid a total of $47.3 million for the property over five years.

In addition, DEC and The Nature Conservancy provided 15 grants in 2014 to local businesses and communities to implement tourism and recreation projects related to former Finch lands. These grants – adding up to $500,000 provided by The Nature Conservancy – are supporting equestrian staging areas, modernized lodging, campground improvements, marketing initiatives and professional outdoor guiding businesses.

The Nature Conservancy will now also provide an additional $750,000 in grants to be administered by DEC to assist the local municipalities to strengthen the critical links between local economies and conserved lands. These grants will greatly enhance local tourism infrastructure within these municipalities and assist in further expanding economic development initiatives in the Adirondack Park.

A large portion of the Boreas Ponds Tract is a lowland area between the North River Mountain Range to the west and the Boreas Mountain Range to the east. The summits of the Boreas Mountain Range are on the tract. Spectacular views of these mountain ranges and mountains in the High Peaks Wilderness – such as Marcy, Haystack, Gothics, and Saddleback – can be seen from a number of locations. This new purchase, when combined with the Casey Brook Tract acquired by the state in 2013, connects three major Forest Preserve areas.

Boreas Ponds, the namesake of the tract, form a 320-acre body of water, now one of the largest in the park completely surrounded by Forest Preserve. Other waters on the tract include LaBier Flow, Boreas River, LeClaire Brook, Casey Brook, Slide Brook and White Lily Brook, which provide habitat for cold water fish, including brook trout. A portion of this parcel serves as the divide between the Lake Champlain and Hudson River watershed.

While more than 80 percent of the former Finch lands are in Newcomb, North Hudson, Long Lake, Indian Lake and Minerva, the entire property lies within 27 towns across the Adirondacks. The state will pay full local property and school taxes on the land. These land acquisitions are one component of a larger conservation plan under which some 95,000 acres of former Finch lands are now protected by working forest conservation easements, and a collection of tracts in Newcomb, Long Lake and Indian Lake were set aside for community purposes.

Together, Forest Preserve and conservation easement lands throughout the Adirondacks provide an abundant variety of recreational access opportunities, including hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, paddling, mountain biking and cross-country skiing. These large forest areas, interspersed with towns and villages, distinguish the Adirondack Park from other parks around the world and are integral to the local economy and way of life.

The Boreas Ponds Tract and the adjoining Casey Brook Tract will be available for limited public access while the Adirondack Park Agency leads the process to classify the lands under the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. This process involves, among other factors, careful consideration of the natural resources’ capacity to withstand use. After the land is classified, DEC will develop a management plan to fully identify and develop the recreational infrastructure on these lands.

A handful of leaseholders will continue to have driving access to their camps on the Boreas Ponds Tract through September 30, 2018. TNC will also have administrative access to the property for several years to tend to camp removal, including the removal of Boreas Lodge, which is anticipated to take place this spring.

“We applaud Governor Cuomo and DEC for this extraordinary accomplishment. Larger in size than Manhattan, the addition of the Boreas Ponds tract to the Forest Preserve is one for the history books,” Nature Conservancy Adirondack Chapter Executive Director, Michael Carr said. :”This property is of National Park quality. We are proud to partner with New York to protect such a priceless resource.”

Bill Farber, Chair of Hamilton County Board of Supervisors said, “This acquisition, is the final piece, of a historic transaction. Through the leadership of TNC, DEC, and particularly Governor Cuomo, these additions to the Forest Preserve have been historic, not just for their environmental significance, but in the way communities have had a chance to partner in this process. Communities continue to benefit from the Governor’s commitment to Tourism, and the commitment the State Agencies have made to working with the Towns and Counties. When there were questions about whether the Lodge could be sustained on site, or moved, TNC, DEC, and the impacted municipalities explored the options together. When all the options to sustain the Lodge, or salvage the Lodge, had been exhausted, TNC and DEC again stepped up to assure $750,000 in funding would be available to develop Tourism infrastructure in the communities. This partnership is historic, and long overdue!”
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