Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

September 03, 2021

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

Ladders to the Outdoors Program Launches at New York State Parks

With Funding from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, Program Engages Kids with the Outdoors

Program Registration Open for School Groups and Community Organizations 

The Natural Heritage Trust and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced today that the Ladders to the Outdoors program is underway and free recreational programs are now available for booking at state parks throughout Niagara and Erie counties. 

Funded with a grant to the Natural Heritage Trust from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, Ladders to the Outdoors seeks to increase access to outdoor recreational spaces, equipment, transportation, and skills development in underserved communities near state parks in Western New York. The $860,000 grant funds a three-year program to support the development of and community outreach for participation in free youth recreational programs and instructional classes at state parks including guided hikes, fishing, biking, kayaking, swimming and sports activities. The grant will also fund recreational equipment including bikes, kayaks, fishing gear and sports equipment for community use, the rehabilitation of athletic fields and the addition of accessible play equipment at several state park playgrounds. Transportation to parks will be offered through a partnership with the New York State Connect Kids to Parks program. 

"Engaging youth in parks and recreation will help to develop a lifelong love of the outdoors. I am so thankful to the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation for recognizing the importance of this and helping us outreach to the most in need communities," said Erik Kulleseid, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. 

"Outdoor recreation not only has a positive impact on health, but also creates a future generation of park and trail users and stewards," said Jim Boyle, Vice President of Programs and Communications at the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. "By removing access barriers to these amenities, we can continue to support healthy and active lifestyles for the youth and families of Western New York." 
Community organizations, school groups and others serving youth of all ages in the region are encouraged to contact the Ladders to the Outdoors coordinator, to learn more about program opportunities and scheduling events.  

The Natural Heritage Trust is a non-profit, public-benefit corporation with the mission to receive and administer gifts, grants and contributions to further public programs for parks, recreation, cultural, land and water conservation and historic preservation purposes of the State of New York. The NHT accomplishes its mission by accepting donations, raising funds, and through cooperative programs and projects with its agency partners: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Department of State (DOS). For more information visit 

Children from the Seneca Babcock Community Center celebrated the first season of Ladders to the Outdoors with an "LTO Field Day" at Buffalo Harbor State Park on September 1, 2021.  GObike Buffalo joined in the fun with bike riding lessons and repairs.