Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

October 20, 2016

State Parks Press Office:
Randy Simons | Dan Keefe
(518) 486-1868 |

New York State Parks Announces New Grant Program Connects School Children to State Lands

Elementary School visits Long Island State Park through new education program

State Parks and DEC Facilities to Serve as Sites for Education Program

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) today announced that New York State is offering state grants to public schools throughout New York State to fund field trips to state parks and historic sites for environmental, history and physical education programming. Fourth-grade students from Freeport Public Schools joined State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center at Jones Beach State Park to highlight the Connect Kids to Parks Transportation grant program.

"Expanding opportunities for our children to spend time in parks and nature is one of the best things we can do to help them build mind and muscle," said New York State Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Rose Harvey. "By helping state parks and historic sites partner with public schools, Governor Cuomo is helping to expand our children's horizons in important ways."

Funding for the $500,000 Connect Kids to Parks Transportation Grant program comes from the state Environmental Protection Fund's enhanced Environmental Justice programming approved in the 2016-17 State Budget. The grant is available to Kindergarten-12th grade classes in Title 1 public schools. To date more than 120 schools across the state have applied for the grant. The grant application is available on and is reviewed on a rolling basis for field trips anytime in the 2016-17 school year. For more information visit or e-mail

State Parks also announced that New York will extend the "Connect Kids to Parks" free 4th grade entry to state parks in 2017. New York State Parks, as well as day-use areas operated by the Department of Environmental Conservation, accept the National Park Service's Every-Kid-In-A-Park pass upon presentation for vehicle entry into all State Parks as long as the fourth grader is present in the vehicle. The pass will also be accepted at State Historic Sites for the pass holder and up to 3 adults for house tour fees. Details about the program are available at

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Connecting young New Yorkers to the vast natural resources this state has to offer is a truly unique learning experience that could benefit them for years to come. The future protection of our environment depends on young people and Governor Cuomo remains committed to getting them involved early."

National Park Service Deputy Director for Congressional and External Relations Denise Ryan said, "The Every Kid in a Park (EKIP) program is encouraging the next generation of outdoor stewards to explore our nation's most spectacular spaces. We are thrilled that New York State parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation shares our passion for wildlife, resources and history. Granting EKIP pass holders free access to New York State Parks and providing transportation grants to underserved communities will significantly enhance the opportunities our kids have to go out and experience all of the natural beauty New York has to offer."

To support the administration and operation of the free 4th Grade Entry program, the Natural Heritage Trust has secured $300,000 in funding commitments thanks to the generosity of the following: Lucy R. Waletzky, MetLife Foundation, Long Island State Parks Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

Bryan Erwin, Chair of the Long Island State Park Regional Commission and Foundation for Long Island State Parks, said "The Foundation for Long Island State Parks state parks is pleased to partner with Governor Cuomo and the National Park Service to help Long Island 4th graders experience our wonderful park system, both here on Long Island and throughout the country. Our contribution will ensure the success of the program without raising fees, or burdening the taxpayer. We are proud to be here at Jones Beach, the crown jewel in our state park system and a perfect natural classroom, with our Freeport neighbors to celebrate the Connect Kids program,"

MetLife Foundation President and CEO Dennis White said, "Increasing access to parks contributes to the health and well-being of children and families. We are honored to join New York State, program partners and other sponsors in connecting schoolchildren and their families with parks and public lands for recreation and education."

There are an estimated 220,000 4th Graders in New York State. Research shows that children who interact with nature before age 11 are more likely to have positive attitudes about the natural environment, and many state parks and historic sites have educational programs that serve fourth grade students. In New York, the grade 4 social studies core curriculum focuses on civics, community and New York State history—making it a perfect school year to visit a New York State Park.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 180 state parks and 35 historic sites, which are visited by 65 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