Erik Kulleseid has served as Commissioner since January 2019, leading State Parks through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as major capital initiatives including opening the new Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn, an award-winning rebuilding project at Niagara Falls State Park, the new Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center on Long Island, planned new Parks in Kingston and Rochester, and the opening of the Autism Nature Trail in Letchworth State Park, a first-of-its kind trail designed specifically for people on the autism spectrum and their families. State Parks and Historic Sites have set annual attendance records in 2019, 2020 and 2021 under his tenure.
At State Parks, Erik has focused on rebuilding New York's unsurpassed state park system, expanding access to the broadest cross-section of New Yorkers and visitors, embracing new technologies and efficiencies, and fostering the commercial, nonprofit, and volunteer public-private partnerships that are so crucial for delivering the peak visitor experience possible.
Previously, Erik served as Senior Vice President, Parks and Policy Program for the Open Space Institute. He founded the Parks Program (originally the Alliance for New York State Parks) at OSI, along with former State Council of Parks Chair Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky and former State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash in 2010.
While at OSI, Erik secured $30 million in private and public funds to support state park improvements and expand recreational access, including the Jones Beach Revitalization Plan, Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park, Thacher Park Center, Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park and several transformational projects at Minnewaska State Park Preserve. He also launched OSI's Pulse of the Park series, profiling state parks and their usership.
Erik previously served as Deputy Commissioner for Open Space Protection at State Parks from 2007 to 2010. While there, he led the state team that oversaw the successful public-private effort to convert an abandoned railroad bridge in Poughkeepsie into the Walkway over the Hudson State Historic Park, the longest pedestrian bridge in the world and now a highly popular state park.
Erik also was New York State Program Director for The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land conservation organization, where for 13 years he led efforts to protect New York's special landscapes. A Hudson Valley native who grew up next to Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve, his first real job was as a summer lifeguard at Harriman State Park's Lake Welch in 1982.