Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

May 04, 2009

For Release: Immediate
Press Contact:
Eileen Larrabee
Dan Keefe

State Parks Adopts Sustainability Blueprint

Comprehensive plan recommends targeted reduced mowing throughout the system of 178 state parks

Allowing more lawns to return to meadows and using fewer pesticides are key elements of a new sustainability plan aimed at easing the impact that the daily operations of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation have on natural resources, the agency announced today.

"New York State must aggressively pursue innovative, sustainable practices to ensure a healthy future for all New Yorkers, and I can think of no better place to 'go green' than our tremendous State parks," said Governor Paterson. "New York's parks connect tens of millions of people to our State's great outdoors every year, and these measures will make sure they will continue to offer a beneficial, uplifting environment for our children and grandchildren."

"State Parks should be a leader in integrating sustainability principles and 'green technologies' in all aspects of our programs and activities," said Commissioner Carol Ash. "We're responsible for passing on our State Parks in good repair to the next generation. This sustainability initiative will help protect our natural resources by ensuring our operation incorporates energy efficient technologies, green building design, fuel efficient vehicles, green products procurement and other sustainable practices."

Ash noted many of the practices outlined in the policy are not new for State Parks. Over the past decade the agency has made significant progress in implementing sustainability practices, including installing renewable energy technologies such as solar PV panels at park entrance stations, boat launches and police sub stations; developing an extensive alternative fuel vehicle fleet; and initiating the agency's first LEED-certified building at the Taconic regional headquarters.

"The sustainability plan has allowed us to gather input from parks staff across the state about how we can successfully improve and formalize our sustainability practices," Ash said. "The plan will enable us to employ these practices at parks and historic sites across the state and allow us to track our progress."

The plan focuses sustainability efforts in five priority areas:

Energy Conservation and Improvements

The plan calls for a comprehensive effort to reduce energy consumption, using a wide range of tools and tactics, including electronic meetings to reduce auto travel, purchasing hybrid and alternative energy vehicles, and reducing lawn mowing at state parks.

Building on a successful pilot project in the Saratoga-Capital Region, OPRHP will expand its reduced mowing efforts to the entire parks system. Each park region will be required to identify ways to reduce the area and frequency of mowing. Reduced mowing will be accompanied by a public education component to minimize negative reactions from park users and the community at large to help dispel the misperception that un-mowed areas are "uncared for."

"Allowing some lawns return to their natural state is a simple way to reduce greenhouse gases, air pollution, save money and encourage a health natural habitat," Ash said.

The sustainability plan sets a goal of reducing the purchase of gasoline and diesel fuel by 20 percent by the year 2015. This translates to a savings of approximately 230,000 gallons of gasoline and 50,000 gallons diesel fuel annually by 2015 yielding more than a half million dollars in cost savings to the agency and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than 5.7 million pounds annually. In 2007, OPRHP purchased over 1.1 million gallons of gasoline and 266,212 gallons of diesel fuel, at a total cost exceeding $2.3 million.

Sustainable Sites

The plan recommends OPRHP take an integrated approach to designing and constructing buildings and managing landscapes to minimize impact to the natural environment. A critical component is the goal to eliminate pesticides from parks, especially areas frequented by children, such as beaches, playgrounds, picnic areas, ballfields, campgrounds, and hiking trails. The plan acknowledges areas for which targeted pesticide will continue, most notably in the area of golf course management.

Under the pesticide guidelines, all OPRHP facilities and operations, including those of concessionaires, will eliminate pesticide use wherever possible. In instances where they are needed to protect health and safety or control invasive species, as well as at golf courses and arboretums, State Parks will use least toxic chemicals. All facilities will reduce the use of pesticides through Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques, which employs proactive mechanical, sanitary, cultural or biological methods to control pests to the maximum extent possible, with the use of chemicals only as a last resort. Through detailed surveillance, IPM focuses on establishing physical barriers to pests and reducing the food, water and shelter available to them.

Waste Reduction and Recycling

The sustainability plan calls for a comprehensive program to reduce waste, promote re-use and enhance and improve recycling programs. OPRHP will focus its efforts on reducing waste, specifically paper use reduction along with the purchase and use of 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper. Collection of glass, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles will be undertaken at parks where feasible.

Green Procurement

OPRHP commits to purchasing products that minimize their impact on the environment and maximize the use of recycled and secondary materials. Environmentally preferable purchasing can be factored into most commodities purchased - encompassing everything from paper, cleaning products, asphalt, office furniture, and computers; to park benches, playgrounds, and building materials for construction projects.

Education, Training and Interpretation

The plan also calls for the agency to take advantage of tremendous opportunities to demonstrate sustainable practices to the more than 55 million people who visit state parks and historic sites each year. For example, the Jones Beach Nature Center, where solar and geothermal energy are used, provides a wonderful opportunity for public education and interpretation of these renewable energy projects.

The sustainability plan and the pesticide policy are available on State Parks' web site, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 178 state parks and 35 historic sites. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit the web site.