Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

December 17, 2007

Eileen Larrabee
Cathy Jimenez

State Council of Parks Issues Report Highlighting Needs and Accomplishments of State Parks And Historic Sites

Report, First in 35 years, Highlights Capital Backlog Throughout New York State

The New York State Council of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation today released its 2007 Annual Report to Governor Eliot Spitzer highlighting achievements over the past year and setting forth recommendations for improving the (1) infrastructure and management and (2) stewardship of New York's 213 State Parks and Historic Sites. The report details the growing backlog of urgent capital needs at state parks and historic sites and identifies priorities of the State Council for 2008.

"The New York State Parks system is an irreplaceable public asset that provides unparalleled recreation opportunities, enhances the health of citizens, supports the state's economic vitality and quality of life, and harbors irreplaceable ecosystems and natural resources. The Annual Report outlines a major effort to return New York's parks to preeminence as the best state parks system in the nation and calls for a renewed investment in our public facilities throughout the state," said State Council Chair Dr. Lucy Waletzky.

"I want to thank the members of the State Council of Parks for their commitment to preserving and protecting the valuable natural resources within our parks and historic sites and for their efforts in advancing the annual report. This document is an important step in focusing attention on the many challenges facing our state parks and historic sites after years of underinvestment and offers valuable insight and suggestions to develop and expand successful stewardship and land initiatives across New York," said State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash.

Ash noted that despite statutory requirements for the issuance of an annual report, this document is the first formal submission in 35 years provided to the Governor.

An ongoing comprehensive assessment of State Parks' capital investment needs has identified critical capital projects with a total cost exceeding $650 million. The following are State Parks' capital needs broken down into four categories:

  • Remediation of existing facilities (65 percent of capital need). Projects include maintenance and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure in the parks and historic sites.
  • Health and safety (15 percent of capital need). Projects include upgrades to electrical systems and drinking water supply systems, repairs to dams and bridges flagged as potential hazards, and attention to inactive landfills that were not properly closed.
  • New facilities development (15 percent of capital need). Projects include capital investments are needed to develop new facilities that have been acquired over the past decade in order to create contact stations, parking areas, restrooms, picnic grounds and swimming areas.
  • Natural resources (5 percent of capital need). State Parks' natural resources are threatened by pollution, invasive species, soil erosion and global warming. Specific projects to restore habitats and ecosystems within State Parks facilities have been identified to ensure the protection of natural resources.

Despite the unmet capital funding needs, State Parks achieved a number of accomplishments and successes over the past year including opening of new parks and facilities, restoration of several historic buildings, construction of vacation rentals; major rehabilitation projects; electrical upgrades and playground improvements; and increased interpretive programming and educational opportunities.

In 2008, the State Council will focus on significantly increasing State Parks' capital budget to address the rehabilitation and reconstruction of aging infrastructure; cultivating and encouraging support for state parks and historic sites with elected officials, community leaders, and parks and historic preservation organizations; working to strengthen friends groups and increasing volunteer efforts; and participating in private fundraising efforts to advance high priority capital projects.

The Annual Report was adopted by members of the Council of Parks at an October 16, 2007, meeting. The State Council consists of the Chairs of the eleven regional park commissions; Carol Ash, Commissioner of State Parks; Pete Grannis, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, and Robert MacKay, Chair of the State Board of Historic Preservation. The function of the council is to advise, make recommendations and report on the progress of all matters affecting state parks, recreation and historic preservation.

In January 2007, Governor Spitzer appointed Dr. Lucy R. Waletzky to serve as chair of the State Council of Parks. The following individuals serve as chair for each of the New York State Parks regions: Dalton Burgett (Allegany); Edward Audi (Central); Linda Jackson (Finger Lakes); Peter Humphrey (Genesee); Herbert Balin (Long Island); Edward Cox (New York City); Jean Knox (Niagara); Samuel Pryor (Palisades); Heather Mabee (Saratoga-Capital District); Lucy Waletzky (Taconic); and Harold Johnson, II (Thousand Islands).

For more information on New York State parks and historic sites, please call 518-474-0456 or visit For a copy of the New York State Council of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation 2007 Annual Report, visit