Tag Archives: New York State Parks

NYS Opens First Nature Trail in US Designed for Autism Spectrum at Letchworth State Park

First Trail in U.S. Designed Specifically for Autism Spectrum Disorder Communities and Families

Project Supported By More Than $3.3 Million in Private Funds

The nation’s first nature trail specifically designed to address the sensory needs of those with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities is open at Letchworth State Park in western New York State © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The nation’s first nature trail specifically designed to address the sensory needs of those with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities is open at Letchworth State Park in western New York State. Supported by more than $3.3 million in private fundraising, the new Autism Nature Trail is a one-mile hiking loop that includes eight marked sensory stations, each designed to address a different sensory experience in a safe and supportive environment.

“New York State is leading the nation in creating this public trail purposefully designed to bring the benefits of the outdoors to those on the autism disorder spectrum and their families,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “State Parks should be accessible to everyone, and this is a welcoming and inclusive place for an underserved community.”

Activities along the Autism Nature Trail support and encourage sensory perception and integration, while also providing enjoyable activities for visitors of all abilities and ages. The stations engage each visitor’s senses, using nature and natural materials as the tools for skill-building. The trail is set up to allow for safe social distancing and planned interaction.

Sensory stations and other features of Autism Nature Trail include:

  • Sensory Station, where a collection of leaves, moss, fossils, animal fur, acorns and other objects are to be touched, handled, and even smelled;
  • Sunshine Slope, a gentle maze in an opening that includes a viewing platform, three cuddle swings, and an “Alone Zone;”
  • Music Circle, where a variety of nature-inspired musical instruments encourage creativity, either alone or with others;
  • Curiosity Corner, an open space with a gliding seat, ant-shaped boulders, and access to a shortcut back to the beginning of the trail;
  • Reflection Knoll, a quiet point halfway on the trail under a canopy of trees, with etchings of woodland creatures hidden in the boulders;
  • Meadow Run and Climb, a place with paths to run, jump and balance along serpentine berms and an obstacle course;
  • Design Zone, where visitors can manipulate materials from along the trail into patterns and structures;
  • Playful Path, a place of twisting paths with different surfaces including coarse gravel, log rounds, and sand;
  • The Nook, an area of carefully spaced seating set under a natural canopy;
  • The Celebration Station, as the final stop on the trail, this area has a place for visitors to express themselves through writing and drawing about their experiences on the trail.

Located near the park’s Humphrey Nature Center with parking, restrooms and Wi-Fi, the ADA-compliant trail was designed with input from Dr. Temple Grandin, a cattle industry expert who was diagnosed with autism in 1950 at the age of two and is now one of the world’s most well-known advocates for the autistic community.

Support and programming for the trail comes from the nearby Perry Central School District in Wyoming County and Rochester’s Camp Puzzle Peace, an Adirondack summer camp for families living with developmental disabilities. Fundraising for the trail is being managed on behalf of State Parks by the Natural Heritage Trust. The trust is a not-for-profit charitable corporation that receives and administers gifts, grants, and contributions to support public programs for parks, recreation, cultural, land and water conservation and historic preservation purposes.

Last month, Autism Nature Trail supporters marked the sudden loss of one of the project’s most devoted early advocates, ANT co-founder Susan Herrnstein. Her family has requested that any donations in her memory be made to the Autism Nature Trail through the Natural Heritage Trust.

Fundraising will continue to support visitor programming for the Autism Nature Trail. So far, more than 650 separate donations have been made to the project, reflecting more than 430 individual donors, 50 corporate donors, 25 community groups, and 15 foundations.

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “The public-private partnership that envisioned and accomplished this innovative project shows what the power of collaboration and commitment can achieve. State Parks values our dedicated staff and partners who have put in countless hours and is grateful for the generous financial support provided by so many donors.”

“Our hope is that the Autism Nature Trail will become an exemplar, widely replicated, taking from what we learned in the seven-year process of creating a first-of-its-kind experience in nature,” Loren Penman, an Autism Nature Trail co-founder and member of the Genesee Regional Park Commission, said. “While others retrofit public places to make them accessible, we have created an accessible place and made it public–and that has made all the difference.”

Gail Servanti, an Autism Nature Trail co-founder and member of the Genesee Regional Park Commission, said, “This is our dream come true and I eagerly await the positive impact a walk on the Autism Nature Trail will have on individuals and families of all abilities.”

“Camp Puzzle Peace was founded out of a desire to share a love of nature and to allow all families to experience the joy of the outdoors in a meaningful way,” Camp Puzzle Peace Executive Director Jen Hackett said. “We are very proud to partner with New York State to expand our purpose by providing programming on the Autism Nature Trail for all families, regardless of ability or diagnosis.”

Perry School District Superintendent Daryl McLaughlin said, “The eyes of the world are on this project.  Everything we are doing has never been done before.  This project represents what is possible when individuals, groups, and municipalities engage with one another to advance a cause.  The Autism Nature Trail will be a powerful instructional space where cutting-edge learning and teaching will occur for all individuals.  This project also will be a paradigm shift for economic development.”

About 1 in 54 children in the U.S. have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and often has a tremendous impact on parents, siblings, and members of the extended family.

Statistics show that young people with autism spend disproportionate amounts of time indoors, often finding comfort in digital activities which results in social isolation. This disconnectedness not only affects individuals with ASD but also can affect caregivers and entire families, who can sometimes feel uncomfortable in outside settings.

For more information on the Autism Nature Trail, visit: https://autismnaturetrail.com/.

Visited by nearly one million people annually, Letchworth State Park covers more than 14,000 acres and is one of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern U.S. In 2015, readers of USA Today voted it the best state park in the United States. Surrounded by lush forests, the Genesee River roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs as high as 600 feet in some places. The park features 66 miles of hiking trails, as well as trails for horseback riding, biking, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. Letchworth offers nature, history and performing arts programs, as well as guided walks, tours, a summer lecture series, whitewater rafting, kayaking, a pool for swimming and hot air ballooning.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails, and boat launches, which were visited by a record 78 million people in 2020. A recent university study found that spending by State Parks and its visitors supports $5 billion in output and sales, 54,000 private-sector jobs and more than $2.8 billion in additional state GDP. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518.474.0456. Also, connect with us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

See: DRIVEABLE ADVENTURES: HIKING/CAMPING IN THE ‘GRAND CANYON OF THE EAST’ – NY’S LETCHWORTH STATE PARK

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New York State Forms Partners with Tentrr for Glamping Sites in Four State Parks in Hudson Valley

Tentrr camping site at the Sebago area of Harriman State Park, New York. The tenting service has a partnership with New York State to provide 45 glamping sites at four state parks in the Hudson Valley.

New York State is partnering with a tent camping service to provide 45 glamping sites at four State Parks in the Hudson Valley. Tentrr’s fully outfitted campsites are available to reserve at the Sebago and Silver Mine areas of Harriman State Park in Orange and Rockland Counties; Taconic State Park and Lake Taghkanic State Park in Columbia County; and Mills-Norrie State Park in Dutchess County.

The service provides tents, sleeping accommodations and an array of equipment needed for camping at each site. All items are set up and ready to use upon arrival for added convenience and sites are maintained by Tentrr staff.

All locations include a 10-foot by 12-foot, canvas-walled tent atop a raised platform. Each site is outfitted with a queen-sized bed and memory foam mattress, a propane heating source, a solar-powered “sun” shower, a camp toilet, water container, Adirondack chairs, a fire pit, grill, and a picnic table with storage and benches.  

Guests have the option of single, double, and triple sites. Singles sleep up to six (two occupants in the main tent and four occupants in a provided pop-up tent). Double sites – or buddy sites – sleep up to 12 (two occupants in each of the two main tents and four occupants in each of the two provided pop-up tents) and triples can accommodate group camping. 

“Camping at a State Park is an ideal way to explore the great outdoors with friends and family,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “This partnership continues our work to create diverse and exciting destinations to attract visitors to New York’s great outdoors, enhance our tourism economy, and help people experience all that the State has to offer.”

“The partnership with Tentrr is an opportunity to reach new visitors and encourage more New Yorkers to get outside and be active,” State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said. “We look forward to kicking off this summer and connecting people with the Hudson Valley’s many outdoor offerings. Not everyone has the equipment or the knowledge to enjoy camping in a state park, and this partnership is a great way to introduce this classic outdoor experience to more New Yorkers.” 

“As a New York City-based company, it is great to partner with our home state supporting its incredible park system across the region,” said Todd King, Vice President of Marketing at Tentrr. “Through Tentrr, we hope New Yorkers and out-of-state visitors alike will explore the incredible natural resources and parks the state has to offer. Tentrr makes it easy to find an amazing site to enjoy the state’s vast landscapes and inspiring scenery.”

New York State Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said,”Camping is a terrific way to experience New York State’s great outdoors, and this new service will make it easier than ever to enjoy New York’s unparalleled State Parks. I LOVE NY looks forward to promoting the availability of these extensively outfitted sites as part of the wide variety of camping offerings available across the state to residents and visitors alike.”

While Tentrr’s sites are naturally socially distanced, Tentrr adheres to state guidelines for maintaining and sanitizing the sites. Tentrr will continue to keep sites clean and wiped down with high-grade sanitizers and encourages guests to follow recommended COVID requirements and protocols. For more details on Tentrr’s COVID-19 protocols, visit here

The Tentrr partnership complements Governor Cuomo’s NY Parks 100 initiative, which renews the historic commitment to investing and expanding the State Park system by committing at least $440 million over the next four years. This critical period of revitalization will culminate in the 2024 celebration of the 100th anniversary of the State Park Act, which first created our nation-leading State Park system in 1924 under Governor Al Smith. NY Parks 100 will continue crucial investments in park infrastructure while enhancing opportunities to reach the full range of New York State’s recreational and cultural offerings, including local parks and trails, regional flagship parks and historic sites, and vast wilderness parks. The initiative will focus on creating places to recreate locally, relieving overcrowded parks, welcoming new visitors, and protecting New York State’s environmental and historic legacy. This new plan will ensure people from all communities and across all ages and abilities can fully experience our outdoors, our culture, and our heritage. 

For more information, visit www.tentrr.com.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which were visited by a record 78 million in 2020. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit www.parks.ny.gov, connect with us on Facebook, or follow on Instagram Twitter or on the State Parks blog.

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New Yorkers Encouraged to Celebrate New Year Outdoors – Responsibly – at State Parks

Hiking in the Adirondacks. New Yorkers are encouraged to celebrate the New Year safely by spending time outdoors this holiday season at state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas, trails, and public lands across the state beginning January 1, 2021. Register for one of the many walks and hikes being held across the state as part of the 10th Annual First Day Hikes program © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New Yorkers are encouraged to celebrate the New Year safely by spending time outdoors this holiday season at state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas, trails, and public lands across the state beginning January 1, 2021. Families across the state can register for one of the many walks and hikes being held across the state as part of the 10th Annual First Day Hikes program, a partnership between the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“In these challenging times, getting out into nature has been a major outlet for safe and healthy recreation for New Yorkers,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said.”Whether you’re taking a self-guided hike at a favorite park or discovering a new local trail this holiday season, New Yorkers have unparalleled options and destinations to embrace the outdoors this winter and bring in the New Year while remaining COVID safe and COVID smart.”

With the Empire State Trail near completion, residents along the 750-mile route – the longest multi-use state trail in the nation- can enjoy the great outdoors while supporting tourism and community revitalization across the state. Information about the trail, including an interactive map detailing the route, designated parking areas, and nearby attractions is available on the project website.

Walks and hikes are family-friendly, and typically range from one to five miles and are being offered at more than 60 state parks, historic sites, DEC state lands, wildlife areas, Forest Preserve trails and environmental education centers.

A list of New York State First Day Hikes, location details, format, pre-registration requirements and additional information can be found online at parks.ny.gov and dec.ny.gov. Interested participants are encouraged to check the details of their preferred host site and pre-register where required.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and requirements for safe outdoor recreation, there will be no large group hikes this year. The event options for hikes range from self-guided treks to staff- or volunteer-led hikes with a limited number of participants. All hikes are subject to regional COVID-19 limitations. Masks or face-coverings are mandatory, and capacity restrictions may limit participation so have some alternate locations in mind. Hikes will span Friday, Saturday or Sunday of January, allowing participants the time and space to social distance while still enjoying nature’s winter wonders.

Here is a list of First Day Hikes by region, along with contact information:

Western New York

Allegany State Park- Red House; 716.354.9101 x.232

DeVeaux Woods State Park, Niagara Falls; 716.282.5154

Evangola State Park, Irving; 716.549.1050

Fort Niagara State Park, Youngstown; 716.282.5154

Genesee Valley Greenway, Hinsdale; 585.493.3614

Genesee Valley Greenway, Cuba; 585.493.3614

Genesee Valley Greenway Snowmobile Ride, Avon; 585.964.3614

Hamlin Beach State Park, Hamlin; 585.964.2462

Knox Farm State Park, East Aurora; 716.549.1050

Letchworth State Park, Castile; 585.493.3680

Niagara Falls State Park, Niagara Falls; 716.282.5154

Plumbottom State Forest, Amity; 585.415.1521

Reinstein Environmental Education Center, Depew; 716.683.5959

Finger Lakes & Central New York

Bowman Lake State Park/McDonough State Forest, Oxford; 607.334.2718

Catharine Valley Trail, Watkins Glen; 607.535.4511

Chenango Valley State Park, Chenango Forks; 607.648.5251

Clark Reservation State Park, Jamesville; 315.415.8377

Delta Lake State Park, Rome; 315.337.4670

Finger Lakes Trail, Naples; 585.727.6495

Finger Lakes Trail Peaceweavers Loop, Naples; 607.227.7957

Fort Ontario State Historic Site, Oswego; 315.343.4711

Glimmerglass State Park, Cooperstown; 607.547.8662

Green Lakes State Park, Fayetteville; 315.637.6111

Herkimer Home State Historic Site, Herkimer; 315.823.0398

Montezuma Audubon Center, Savannah; 315.365.3580

Norwich Greenway North, Norwich; 607.336.4628

Rogers Environmental Education Center, Sherburne; 607.674.4733

Rome Sands Plains Unique Area, Rome; 315.866.6330 ext. 119

Taughannock Falls State Park, Trumansburg; 607.387.7041 ext. 131

North Country/Adirondacks

Goodnow Mountain, Newcomb; 518.582.4551 ext. 104

John Brown Farm State Historic Site, Lake Placid; 518.744.7112

Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center, Paul Smith’s, 518-327-6241

Point Au Roche State Park, Plattsburgh; 518.563.6444

Robert G. Wehle State Park, Henderson; 315.938.5302

Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, Sackets Harbor; 315.646.2321

Wellesley Island State Park, Fineview; 315.482.2479

Wildway Overlook, Essex, 518.962.2287

Greater Capital District

Five Rivers Environmental Education Area, Delmar; 518.475.0291

Grafton Lakes State Park, Grafton; 518.279.1155 x2

Mine Kill State Park, North Blenheim; 518.827.6111

Moreau Lake State Park, Gansevoort; 518.793.0511

Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs; 518.584.2000 x16

Hudson Valley/Catskills

FDR State Park, Yorktown; 914.245.4434

Little Stony Point/Hudson Highlands State Park, Cold Spring; 845.224.7207

John Jay Homestead State Historic Site, Katonah; 914.232.5651

Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Peter’s Kill, Kerhonkson; 845.255.0752

Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Sam’s Point, Cragsmoor; 845.647.7989

North-South Lake, Haines Falls; 518-935-3735

Olana State Historic Site, Hudson; 518.751.0344

Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park, Dobbs Ferry; 646.303.1448

Red Hill Fire Tower Trailhead, Denning; 845.256.3083

Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Pleasantville; 914.666.6503

Sterling Forest State Park, Tuxedo; 845.351.5907

Taconic State Park – Copake Falls, Copake Falls; 518.329.3993

Tivoli Bays Wildlife Management Area, Tivoli; 845.625.7198

NYC & Long Island

Bethpage State Park, Farmingdale; 516.249.0701

Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve, Staten Island; 718-605-3970 ext. 201

Connetquot River State Park Preserve, Oakdale; 631.581.1005

Cupsogue Beach County Park, Westhampton; 631.444.0450

Jones Beach State Park, Wantagh; 516.785.1600

Hallock Preserve, Wading River; 631-315-5475

Montauk Point State Park, Montauk; 631.668.5000

Mt. Loretto Unique Area, Staten Island; 718.313.8591

Ridge Conservation Area, Ridge; 631.444.0350

Shirley Chisholm State Park, Brooklyn; 212.866.3100

Sunken Meadow State Park, Kings Park; 631.269.4333

“First Day Hikes have grown into a popular tradition for many New Yorkers and we look forward to welcoming families and friends out on the trail at many of our parks and historic sites,” State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said. “While this year’s program may look a little different from previous events, exploring the outdoors is still the perfect way to enjoy the winter landscapes, unwind with loved ones and kick off the coming year.”

“One unexpected, yet welcome result of the COVID-19 pandemic is the increase in the number of New Yorkers heading outdoors to explore world-class recreational opportunities close to home,” State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “As we get ready to turn the page on 2020 and enter the New Year, DEC and our partners at State Parks are encouraging visitors to keep discovering New York’s abundant lands and parks and to do so safely and responsibly by observing social distancing and other guidelines to ensure an enjoyable and healthy experience for everyone.”

“This year gave New Yorkers a new opportunity to discover the wonders and adventures that await them just outside their doors,” I Love New York Executive Director Ross Levi said. “New York State is not just an amazing destination for visitors; it is a world-class getaway in our own backyard. First Day Hikes and the new year will offer New Yorkers another chance to find what they love here in our own amazing state.”

Get Outside Safely, Responsibly, and Locally

New York State’s PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL campaign encourages residents to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. New York State Parks and the Department of Environmental Conservation recommendations for getting outside safely incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases. PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL encourages New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, show respect for all outdoor adventurers, and use common sense to protect themselves and others. Wear a mask, even when visiting the outdoors. For more information, visit: https://parks.ny.gov/covid19/

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which are visited by 77 million people annually. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518.474.0456. Also, connect on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

See:

Driveable Getaways: Hiking the Hudson River School Art Trail in the Great Northern Catskills

Driveable Adventures: Hiking/Camping in the ‘Grand Canyon of the East’ –NY’s Letchworth State Park

New York’s Empire State Trail Comes Together: Biking the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in Hudson Valley

Catching the Peak Fall Foliage in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains

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