Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

October 10, 2019

Dan Keefe | Brian Nearing
(518) 486-1868 |

Trails added, reopened at two Finger Lakes State Parks

Connection to atop Watkins Glen reopens after four decades

Excelsior Conservation Corps Contributes to project

Hikers in the Finger Lakes Region have more places to explore, with a long-closed trail at Watkins Glen State Park restored and reopened, and an expanded trail network added to the Allan H. Treman State Marine Park on Cayuga Lake near Ithaca.

At Watkins Glen State Park, it took crews more than 4,300 hours of work - nearly all of it by hand - during the last two years to restore a steep, badly-eroded and unsafe section of trail to the top of the gorge that had been closed since 1983.

Rising from near the park's main entrance more than 160 feet in just two-tenths of a mile, the restored trail section reconnects the lower section of the park to the existing North Rim Trail, which is the renamed former Indian Trail. Restoration work on such steep terrain required building 352 box steps in the trail's main staircase, and 39 box steps at the gorge overlook.

"These projects are another example of the commitment made by Governor Andrew Cuomo under the NY Parks 2020 initiative to make our State Parks second to none," said Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. "I want to commend all our crews for their commitment to what was a very physically-demanding project. Their work will help ease crowding on the very popular and busy gorge trail."

The new trail will also allow visitors access to the park when the gorge trail is closed for safety reasons during the winter.

Work under the $75,859 project was led by the State Parks' Finger Lakes regional trails crew. This project also was supported by a variety of other work teams including Watkins Glen Park staff and the Excelsior Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps environmental education and stewardship program created in 2015 by Governor Cuomo.

In April, seven ECC stewards provided about 176 hours or labor on the project, working on filling box steps with durable material, removing trees and debris from the steep trail, and preparing the overlook site for the new staircase and stone wall.

Since the Excelsior Conservation Corps started, its members have worked on more than 300 miles of trails at State Parks across the state, restored more than 1,800 acres of environmentally-compromised lands, improved 72 buildings, and constructed solar projects that have provided about 7,800 kilowatt hours of electrical power.

Excelsior Conservation Corps members are based at SUNY Sullivan, where they receive extensive training and certifications in wilderness first aid, trail construction, stone and timber construction, carpentry, risk management and emergency response, education and outreach, and backcountry living.

The 10-month service program, which includes a weekly stipend and an education grant, is open to 18- to 25-year-olds. Veterans are eligible up to age 28. Members must be a New York State resident or go to school in the state; have a high school diploma or GED; be able to work both independently and as part of team; and be able to perform physical labor.

The ECC program is run by the Student Conservation Association (SCA), a leading national organization in youth and young adult conservation service and environmental education programs. SCA New York State Parks Corps also provided four interns for the Watkins Glens project, providing hundreds of hours of labor.

Information on how to apply for the ECC can be found here.

Other groups working on the Watkins Glen project included the State Parks regional trail crew, the State Parks regional rock scaling team, incarcerated individuals from the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision drug treatment campus in Willard, and the State Parks FORCES program of volunteer conservation stewards.

Additional project work was performed by Economy Paving, Atlas Fence Co. and Whitmore Fence Co.

At Allan H. Treman State Marine Park, some 1.7 miles of paved asphalt or stone dust multi-use trails, compliant with the American with Disabilities Act, were added to the park's northern section. The trails will connect the park to the city of Ithaca's Cayuga Waterfront Trail and improve access within Allan Treman to picnic areas, Cayuga Lake and Cayuga Inlet.

The 1.1-mile, 10-ft wide paved Cayuga Waterfront Trail Extension connects to day-use docks on the north shore of the marina basin, the north side of the marina entrance channel, the Lakeside Picnic Area, and the Allan Treman Memorial Picnic Grove. New seating has also been added to marina inlet area.

The 8-foot wide, .6-mile stone dust trail skirts a wetland overlooking a bird and osprey nest observation area. Rain gardens were also added at the edge of the existing dog park to biologically treat storm water runoff and encourage rain water infiltration.

Allan H. Treman is one of the largest inland marinas in the state. It boasts 370 seasonal, 30 transient and 30 dry boat slips.

Work under the $678,000 project was funded by NY Works, a $534,400 Recreational Trails Grant to State Parks supported by the Tompkins County Transportation Council, and the State Parks Infrastructure Fund. Work was completed by Procon Contracting LLC.

Senator Tom O'Mara said, "We have long been fortunate that our regional network of trails is second to none and these additions are amazing trails on their own, but more importantly will serve to enhance the quality and overall attractiveness of the entire regional network. We appreciate the ongoing investment and the outstanding effort by everyone involved at the state and local levels, and in particular the Excelsior Conservation Corps, to strengthen these opportunities for outdoor recreation."

Assembly member Barbara Lifton said, "I'm very pleased at the addition of these new trails at the Allen H. Treman Marine Park. It's been wonderful to watch the construction of so many new trails in this area in recent years, from The Black Diamond Trail to the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, and these new trails in the beautiful Treman Marine Park are a great addition to the already-existing trail network that will help locals and visitors alike access picnic areas, the Cayuga Inlet, and the Cayuga Waterfront Trail. I was proud to support the funding that made this project possible in the state budget, and I applaud the many people who have worked so hard to make it a success."

Assembly member Phil Palmesano said, "I appreciate the state's ongoing commitment to and invest in a remarkable system of trails across the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions. It's a system that enhances the quality of our communities, offers great opportunities for everyone who enjoys the outdoors, and strengthens many local economies. In particular the newly repaired section of trail at one of America's premiere state parks in Watkins Glen is an amazing addition that is a tribute to thousands of hours of hard work by local conservation employees and volunteers."

New York State Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said, "Our State Parks are vital to New York's tourism infrastructure, welcoming visitors to make lifetime memories with countless activities and picturesque landscapes. Coupled with the cooler days and the vibrant fall foliage, it's the perfect time to plan a getaway to explore these new trails and experience New York's State Parks."

DOCCS Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci said, "Watkins Glen State Park is a treasured piece of New York's natural beauty, and DOCCS is proud to have been able to support the restoration of one of its many trails. The hard work and dedication exhibited by the incarcerated individuals throughout this project is remarkable, and the impact they have had on the State Parks system will live on for generations to come."

Village of Watkins Glen Mayor Luke Leszyk said, "Reopening the North Rim Trail in the Park is an important addition to the Village. The new trail will increase the capacity of the park, reduce congestion and provide access to viewsheds that haven't been available to the public in the last 40 years."

Watkins Glen Chamber of Commerce President Rebekah Carroll said, "The Watkins Glen Chamber of Commerce is proud to partner with State Parks by operating the information center at the Main Entrance. We are thrilled that the North Rim Trail is open and that it will allow hikers to enjoy the park at times when the Gorge Trail is closed due to winter weather."

Tompkins County Legislature Chairwoman Martha Robertson said, "Tompkins County's residents place a high value on recreational trails. "This extension - with its wonderful viewshed of Cayuga Lake - completes a terrific link with both the Cayuga Waterfront Trail and the Black Diamond Trail."

Ithaca City Mayor Svante Myrick said, "The trail at Allan H. Treman State Marine Park extends the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, a project that the City of Ithaca and the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce partnered on to make happen many years ago. We are thrilled that State Parks was able to construct this new section and we look forward to our future partnership with Parks as we develop the Black Diamond Trail in the City."

Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Tavares said, "The views of Cayuga Lake from the new trail at Allan Treman State Marine Park are truly inspiring. Visitors are always coming to our information centers asking where they can enjoy Cayuga Lake now, in addition to the City of Ithaca's Stewart Park and Taughannock Falls State Park, we can point them to this new trail."

Cayuga Waterfront Trail Coordinator Rick Manning said, "The masterplan for the Cayuga Waterfront Trail always envisioned an extension from Cass Park into Allan Treman and along the lakeshore of Cayuga Lake. It's exciting to see how seamlessly this trail integrates into the Cayuga Waterfront Trail. Comments from our users have been overwhelmingly positive."

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which are visited by 74 million people annually. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit, connect with us on Facebook, or follow on Instagram and Twitter.