Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

July 02, 2015

Randy Simons | Dan Keefe
(518) 486-1868 |

State Parks Encourages Safe and Enjoyable Holiday Weekend and Summer Swim Season

100+ swim opportunities at state parks this summer

Free Learn-to-Swim programs expanding statewide

As the summer vacation season kicks-off and New Yorkers head outdoors to celebrate the 4th of July weekend, State Parks wishes to remind visitors that there are more than 100 state park beaches, pools and spray-grounds available for swimming. These facilities provide our visitors with a wealth of safe places to cool off. To help more New Yorkers stay safe and enjoy the water, New York State Parks is expanding free "Learn-to-Swim" programs for youth at 15 parks this summer season.

"We're lucky that New York's varied landscape offers diverse places to cool off as the temperatures rise, and we strongly encourage all to practice swim safety for a safe, enjoyable summer in the sun," said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. "Swimming is the best way to enjoy the summer and knowing how to swim is a skill that people will appreciate their entire lives. With the continued support of our partners, State Parks is more than doubling the size of free Learn-to-Swim program this summer. With this expansion we expect to teach thousands of children to swim, including many more in rural areas that have fewer opportunities for swimming lessons."

With the kick-off to summer, state park pools, beaches and spray-grounds quickly become popular destinations. Operating times vary and can be found by visiting Operating hours may be affected by weather and changing conditions.

"New Yorkers looking to beat the heat this summer need not look any further than the pools and beaches scattered throughout this great state," said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "These locations present wonderful opportunities to stay cool and active, but only if people follow safe behaviors. So before you take a dip, make sure you and your family know how to swim safely."

While enjoying a swim in your local pool, lake or other water source, safety at these locations is vital. Drowning is a leading cause of injury-related deaths in children of all age groups, and near drowning incidents often result in lifelong medical conditions. Approximately 28 children up to age 19 die from drowning each year in New York State. More than one-third of these deaths are children aged one through four years.

Since knowing how to swim is one of the best ways to both enjoy the water and stay safe, State Parks has teamed up with the American Red Cross, National Swimming Pool Foundation's Step Into Swim Campaign, Northeast Spa and Pool Association (NESPA) Foundation and the State Department of Health to offer free Learn-to-Swim programs at 15 State Parks this summer, up from 5 parks last year.

The National Swimming Pool Foundation and the Northeast Spa & Pool Association Foundation donated $15,000 to offset staff and program costs to enable State Parks to offer the free swim classes. The American Red Cross provides training to NYS Park lifeguards to obtain Water Safety Instructor (WSI) certification. This support has allowed for the certification of approximately 22 additional Water Safety Instructors. Lifeguard staff who currently possess WSI certification will also help provide more opportunities for swim lessons. The 2015 season will see programs varying from swim lessons to water safety presentations at the 15 locations.

"The Red Cross is proud to partner with New York State Parks to teach so many children to swim and learn about water safety this summer," said Connie Harvey, Director of the American Red Cross Centennial Initiative. "Our Learn-to-Swim programs empower kids with life-long water safety skills, and we are happy to support its continued growth in New York State."

Enrollment for the "Learn-to-Swim" program for children is open at all participating NYS parks. Participants' parents are asked to sign-up ahead of time in person at the desired Park as space is limited and expected to fill up quickly. Each swim program is 40 to 45 minutes in duration and participants who enroll in these lessons will receive a Red Cross Learn-to-Swim Achievement Booklet and a State Parks Learn-to-Swim kit that includes a knapsack, t-shirt and water bottle at the conclusion of the program. Most programs are intended for children age 5-10, but this year's schedule also includes programs for toddlers at two parks, and basic water safety presentations at three camping parks.

Launched in 2013 at two state parks in the New York City region, this program was widely successful and expanded last summer to include upstate parks.

"Government, non-profits, and industry coming together to create swimmers is exciting. Friendships, life-long memories, and safer children will be the result," adds Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D., CEO with the NSPF, founder of the Step Into Swim Campaign.

"We are proud to continue our partnership with the New York State Parks system and thrilled to see the Learn-to-Swim program grow once again this year," said Clive Ensher, President of the NESPA Foundation. "Expanding the program provides a great opportunity to give more children life-saving water skills as well as introduce them to a life-long love of swimming and exercise."

The 2015 summer New York State Parks Free Learn-to-Swim programs will begin in early July and enrollment is underway. For more information on locations, schedules and how to sign up, visit the Learn-to-Swim page at

Other safety tips include:

  • Swim only in designated areas when lifeguards are on duty. New York State employs more than 1,000 lifeguards to keep watch over its safe swim areas.
  • Be aware of the area's conditions.
  • Keep a close watch on children in and around the water. Constant and active supervision is the best way to protect young swimmers.
  • Don't rely on floatation devices. U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets, types I, II and III, are the only floatation devices permitted in state park waters.
  • Never swim alone. Instead, enjoy the water with a friend or two who can alert others if assistance is needed.

Visitors are encouraged to follow the water and swim safety tips and information available at and

Water quality results of state park swimming beaches can also be reviewed by visiting:

New Yorkers are also reminded that pools, beaches and other busy areas of state parks are smoke-free. Tobacco-free parks and beaches allow children and families to make the most of New York's beautiful summer without unnecessary exposure to secondhand smoke. To see the designated no-smoking areas in state parks, visit the website.

Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York State is making a historic commitment to improving and expanding access to outdoor recreation. The Governor's NY Parks 2020 program is a multi-year commitment to leverage $900 million in private and public funding for State Parks from 2011 to 2020. The Governor's 2015-16 Executive Budget allocates $110 million toward this initiative.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 180 state parks and 35 historic sites, which are visited by 62 million people annually. A recent study found that New York State Parks generates $1.9 billion in economic activity annually and supports 20,000 jobs. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit, connect on Facebook, or follow on Twitter.