Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

July 09, 2015

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

New York State Parks Opens $1.3 Million Sensory Garden at Planting Fields Arboretum State Park

A new $1.3 million Sensory Garden and Entrance Pavilion at Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay is now open, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) announced today. The Sensory Garden is a unique space where park visitors of all ages and abilities can enjoy multisensory experiences – including sight, touch, taste, smell and sound. The project was a partnership between the state and philanthropist Peter Tilles and the Planting Fields Foundation.

"Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York State is expanding access to outdoor recreation on so many fronts," State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said. "The Planting Fields Sensory Garden is the perfect example of how New York State is making a direct connection to nature for everyone, young and old, and to people of all abilities. I am truly grateful to Governor Cuomo, Peter Tilles and the Planting Fields Foundation for their support for this worthy project."

This 3,500-square-foot sensory garden is designed to be enjoyed at a slower pace, where visitors of all ages and abilities can wander along wide paths, and easily reach out and touch the plants on raised planters. The Sensory Garden is designed to stimulate all the senses with aromatic plants, colorful flowers, tactile leaves, tasteful herbs and water features and wind chimes. In addition to the Garden, the new Entrance Pavilion provides much-needed covered space for groups of visitors to assemble before visiting the 409-acre park, as well as for classes and demonstrations.

Peter Tilles, major donor and member of Planting Fields Foundation, said: "The existence of a Sensory Garden at Planting Fields Arboretum is a tribute to the power of a public/private collaboration. It will provide a new experience for the entire community, especially the physically challenged. Making these experiences available to a new segment of the community will create new visitor participation and enjoyment of the entire Planting Fields Arboretum. My wife, Dori, and I are delighted to have been a part of this collaboration which will provide an outdoor environment accessible to all."

Hal Davidson, President of the Planting Fields Foundation, said: "The Board of Planting Fields Foundation is thrilled to celebrate the opening of the Sensory Garden; the first of its kind on Long Island. It is a major achievement of our partnership with New York State Parks. Many new visitors to the Arboretum will benefit from the experiences provided by this new facility in our community."

New York Senator Carl Marcellino said: "The Planting Fields Foundation and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation sensory garden will engage people of all abilities. Its stunning design is a welcoming addition to Planting Fields. The sounds, sights, textures, scents and tastes will stir visitor's imaginations and will be a destination for the entire community."

Assemblyman Charles D. Lavine said: "The opening of this Sensory Garden represents a great accomplishment for Long Island and the State of New York. I am proud to have played a part in securing funding for this beautiful Arboretum. I will continue to seek funding for organizations who wish to preserve our undeveloped land for the purpose of enjoying Earth's natural beauty."

Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano said: "The New Sensory Garden at Planting Fields Arboretum State Park provides a great opportunity for all residents and park goers to experience, enjoy and learn about the wonderful elements of nature available at their fingertips in Nassau County."

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Vendito said: "On behalf of the entire Oyster Bay Town Board, I'd like to extend my sincere congratulations to the Planting Fields Foundation on the completion of their new Sensory Garden and Entrance Pavilion. The Planting Fields Foundation is a vital organization here in the Town of Oyster Bay and has helped the Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park become one of the premier public gardens and Gold Coast estates. Visited by nearly 200,000 patrons a year, the new amenities unveiled today will serve to help the Arboretum educate, enrich, and entertain another generation of visiting public."

Planting Fields Arboretum State Park is the former Gold Coast estate of the W.R. Coe family, and includes the Coe Hall, the family's Tudor Revival residence. This National Register property has over 400 acres of rolling lawns, gardens, woodlands, and nature walks. The Camellia Greenhouse displays the largest collection of camellias in the northeast, and the Main Greenhouse has extensive collections of hibiscus, orchids, succulents, and seasonal displays.

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.