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NYS Parks Commissioner Visits Bear Mountain To Announce Projects

WAMC, Allison Dunne

On Earth Day Eve, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that 88 revitalization and rehabilitation projects, totaling $71.7 million, will be completed at 60 state parks and historic sites across New York this year. The state Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation was in the Hudson Valley to talk about some local projects today.

Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey was at Bear Mountain State Park Tuesday to highlight 18 projects in the Mid-Hudson region that are on the receiving end of $13.4 million.

“It’s no better time than Earth Week to announce the renaissance of state parks and historic preservation.”

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne
Paint chipping off the Bear Mountain Inn

Some improvements are slated for Bear Mountain State Park itself, which runs through Rockland and Orange Counties. For example, $150,000 is going toward the replacement of the merry-go-round building’s roof. Executive Director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission Jim Hall points out more.

“The parking lot right here at Bear Mountain, it needs to be resurfaced. The exterior of the Inn is going to get some of the woodwork repaired and repainted,” Hall says. “And then some of the work that’s already been done is the water system here has been completely redone. All the piping underground has been redone in the last two years. So now there’s clean water that gets to all the facilities as opposed to what it was before.”

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

The projects are part of Governor Cuomo’s NY Parks 2020 plan, a multi-year commitment to leverage private and public funding to invest about $900 million in state parks, and $110 million is allocated toward the effort in the 2015-16 state budget. Again, Harvey.

“You’re going to see a transformation of Harriman, Minnewaska, Walkway Over the Hudson,” says Harvey. “You’re going to see a transformation of Olana.”

She refers to Walkway Over the Hudson, which connects Dutchess and Ulster Counties, and Olana State Historic Site in Columbia County. Asked where in the Hudson Valley she would like see more attention paid, Harvey said she could not pick just one place.

“When you think about the Hudson Highlands to Bear Mountain to Harriman to Schunnemunk to Sterling Forest, we can tie all that together, improve the trails, improve the picnic areas, the camping, I think then we will have succeeded to create a swath of many more acres, hundreds of thousands of acres within 30 miles of 15-20 million New Yorkers and northern New Jerseyers,” says Harvey. “So I want it all. I want to see it all improved and all tied together.”

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

Mark Castiglione is Acting Executive Director of the Hudson River Valley Greenway.

“So in a region like the Hudson River Valley that has such amazing scenery and has such amazing history, these investments not only will contribute to our economy in terms of tourism and quality of life for the people that live here, but also that connection to these resources are going to make people more likely to want to invest their time in protecting them,” says Castiglione.

Harvey says $500,000 is going toward the continued renovation of Children’s Group Camp at Harriman State Park, a park that also runs through Rockland and Orange Counties.

“Right here in the Hudson Highlands, in Harriman, in Bear Mountain the group camps, they were the very heart and soul of Harriman and Bear Mountain at the very beginning, in the 1920s,” says Harvey. “Each year we’re pouring in money. We’re going to fix them up.”

And that’s good news to Castiglione.

“Certainly areas in our urban centers and some of our parks that can provide access to people that don’t really have access are probably some of the most critical investments that we can make and some of the investments that can pay the biggest return on investment in terms of connecting the number of people, connecting the next generation of environmental stewards to these resources,” Castiglione says.

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

After announcing the funding for the 18 projects, Harvey toured a portion of Bear Mountain Park, and accepted an impromptu invitation from Executive Director of the New York – New Jersey Trail Conference Ed Goodell for a brief hike on a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

“One of things you talked about were gateways, how important they are. And, of course, there’s a series of gateways here, but what this area that you see right here we plan for is to be the gateway to the backcountry,” says Goodell.

“Oh, cool,” says Harvey.

“In you parks, 95 percent or the land is back country,” says Goodell.

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

The two spoke about possible trail project collaborations. Other Mid-Hudson projects on the list include at Mills-Norrie State Park and Staatsburgh State Historic Site in Dutchess County.

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