This was just one of the 4,400 field trips for students across the state funded through the State Parks grant program since it started in 2016.
During their visit in July, the 11- and 12-year-olds learned from Riverbank about the former president who led America’s defeat of fascism, and his famous 1941 speech in which he described his vision for a post-war world.
The campers participated in a lesson focused on Roosevelt’s message that people must stand up when freedom is threatened and not expect others to defend it. To better understand that, the children created their own buttons with slogans and images as an exercise in free speech, which FDR cited as the first freedom.
day began with members of Four Freedoms Park Conservancy’s education team
leading an inquiry-based investigation into Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency and
his vision of a world order founded upon four freedoms: freedom of speech and
expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear,” said
Ryan Lockwood, Manager of Education at Four Freedoms State Park.
The campers also explored the Park, marveling at renowned architect Louis Kahn’s final project, while also examining primary sources from the FDR era to about what it was like to be a child during the Great Depression. To do this, campers used Depression-era photos by famous photographer Dorothea Lange and an excerpt from FDR’s 1941 State of the Union Address in which he outlined the Four Freedoms.
a lunch break, staffers encouraged the young visitors to see themselves as
activists capable of making the world a better place, just like FDR. After
identifying current issues that mattered to them, the campers created
“Activist Buttons” to persuade others to join them in creating the
kind of world they would like to see in the future.
Many campers made buttons that demonstrated how the four freedoms are not static, said Lockwood. For instance, while in Roosevelt’s time freedom from fear from fear likely involved war, for today’s campers, freedom from fear meant not having to be afraid of another school shooting.
they had their photo taken with their new buttons, the kids finished their
visit playing fun games on the Park’s lawn like Jenga, Connect 4, Checkers and
Four Freedoms Park is among several hundred state parks, nature centers, historic sites, or Department of Environmental Conservation nature centers or fish hatcheries, that more than 200,000 schoolchildren have visited during the three previous school years under the Connect Kids to Parks program.
Since inception, the Connect Kids to Parks Field Trip Grant Program has grown from providing 777 field trips for 30,202 students in 2016-2017 to its current level of about 2,100 field trips for 101,000 students in 2018-2019.
Funding comes from the state Environmental Protection Fund’s enhanced Environmental Justice programming approved in the 2019-20 State Budget. Information for school districts and other eligible organizations on how to apply for the grant is available here and here.
All photographs courtesy of Four Freedoms Park unless otherwise credited.
With autumn leaves now turned, hiking in the Palisades region of State Parks offers spectacular views of the Hudson Valley and the Catskills to go with a fascinating history that includes an outlaw’s lair, the state’s early iron industry, and a traitor’s secret meeting place.
on the west side of the Hudson River, this region between the Capital Region
and New York City stretches through Rockland, Orange, Ulster and Sullivan
counties, and contains 23 parks and seven historic
with all hikes, there are few things to remember beyond carrying a mobile
phone. Wear sturdy yet comfortable shoes or boots, bring water and snacks, and
perhaps carry a camera, to capture what you see. Be mindful of hikes on steep
terrain or that go near cliff tops. Having a small first-aid kit available in case
of emergency is never a bad idea
poles are useful, and can transfer some of the stress of hiking from your knees
and legs to your arms and back. And use a trail map, which is available online
at each park website at https://parks.ny.gov/ and at the
main office at each park. Check the park’s individual website to see if its
maps can be downloaded to your iOS Apple or Android device, but a paper map is
a good backup in the event of device failure.
maps include Park facilities such as parking, park offices, nature centers,
campsites, and boat launches in addition to the location, name and distance of
each designated trail in the park. For some facilities, data is available as a
Google Earth KML file or a map is available to download to your iOS Apple and
Android mobile devices in the free PDF-Maps app. Learn more…
For the Palisades region, more information on hikes is also available online from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, and at the bookstore near Exit 17 on the Palisades Interstate Parkway.
It’s smart to know how long a trail is and how long it ought to take to finish. Since daylight is not an unlimited resource, especially in fall as days grow shorter, tossing a flashlight or headlamp into your backpack is a good form of insurance, should you unexpectedly find yourself on the trail as dusk approaches.
as the incidents of tick-borne diseases surge in the state, it is always
important to check yourself for ticks after being outside, even if it is only
time spent in your own backyard.
Rockland Lake State Park, 299 Rockland Lake Road, Valley Cottage, (845) 268-3020: The Nyack River Trail runs along the western short of the Hudson River between Haverstraw Beach State Park and Nyack Beach State Park. About five miles long, the level trail offers excellent river views. It is lined with crushed stone, and so is easy on the knees for a run, and also makes for an excellent bike ride or walk with a dog (must be leashed per NYS Parks rules). This trail also passes a county historical marker for the infamous “Treason Site,” where during the American Revolution in 1780 American General Benedict Arnold meet secretly with British spy Major John Andre to hand over plans for the capture of the strategic Patriot fortress at West Point. Thankfully, the plot was thwarted, with Arnold becoming one of the fledgling nation’s most despised figures.
Harriman State Park,
Seven Lakes Drive/Bear Mountain Circle, Ramapo, (845) 947-2444: At more than
47,500 acres, the second-largest State Park has more than 200 miles of hiking
trails. At its northeastern edge, it borders Bear Mountain State Park as well as the
U.S. Military Academy’s forest reserve. To the southwest lies the 18,000-acre
Sterling Forest State Park. This vast park includes a large rocky shelter that
was the remote hideout for a bandit named Claudius Smith, who led a gang
of pro-British marauders during the American Revolution, known at the time by
terrified local residents as “Cowboys.” To find it, go to the parking lot at
the end of Old Johnstown Road, and look for the Blue Trail. Follow this steep
trail to the top of Dater Mountain for its views, and then continue until you
reach the rocky den, which had enough room to shelter both the gang and their
horses. After taking in the panoramic views, which allowed the gang to see
anyone coming, head down on the Tuxedo-Mount Ivy Trail to return to the parking
lot. The hike is a five-mile trip, with one very steep section.
Minnewaska State Park Preserve, 5281 Route 44-55, Kerhonkson, (845) 255-0752: Take in Catskills from atop the Stony Kills Falls at the northwestern edge of the park on this short, but challenging one-mile hike. Start at the parking area at the end of Shaft 2A Road and follow the gravel trail that crosses two wooden bridges on its way to the base of the 78-foot waterfall. Follow a set of stone stairs upward, using iron hand holds and railings for safety, to reach the top of the falls and its sweeping northerly views. You can either backtrack to the parking lot, or connect to the Stony Kill Falls carriage road atop the Shawangunk escarpment to make a longer hike.
Bear Mountain State Park, Palisades Parkway or Route 9W North, Bear Mountain,
(845) 786-2701: Take
in the view of four states and even glimpse the Manhattan skyline from the
Perkins Memorial Tower atop 1,289-foot Bear Mountain. Take the completely
rebuilt Appalachian Trail, which features about 1,000 stone steps along a steep
granite face. It took crews, including members of the New York-New
Jersey Trail Conference, seven years of arduous labor to renovate the 1.5
mile trail up to the top. There is a new wooden bench at one of the lookouts
for those who might find themselves in need of a breather on the way up.
at Harriman, photographers will enjoy the trail to West Mountain that starts at
the Anthony Wayne
Start on the Fawn Trail to the Timp-Torn Trail, which takes you to the mountain
ridge to the West Mountain Shelter. From there, return using Timp-Torn to the
intersection of the Appalachian Trail westbound, which will lead to Beechy
Bottom Road that returns to the main parking area. The moderate hike is about
Sterling Forest State Park, 116 Old Forge Road, Tuxedo, (845) 351-5907: For larger groups
or school trips, there is the Lakeville Ironworks Trail Loop, which takes in
the remains of an iron industry that once dominated the area. At about a mile
long, the easy loop includes views of Sterling Furnace, the Lake Mine, and
other mining remnants. This trail is among more than 30 trails, including the
Appalachian Trail, within a 21,935-acre park in the midst of the nation’s most
densely populated areas.
Invasive plant species are a huge problem in modern
conservation at our State Parks. These plants can overrun areas and if left
unchecked, push out our native species, disrupt natural systems, and negatively
impact human activities.
Controlling large infestations is challenging, and sometimes
requires using chemical herbicides, which can come with unforeseen costs and undesirable
But there can be another way that is easier on the environment. To deal with invasive plants at Heckscher State Park on Long Island, we are experimenting with a greener and much cuter alternative – a small army of hungry and quite friendly invasive plant-eating goats.
The goats came from Green Goats, a company from Rhinebeck in Dutchess County that for more than a decade has hired out its goats to combat these invaders at various public parks. Their herd has traveled to seven states, as far away as West Virginia and as close by as Riverside Park and Fort Wadsworth in New York City.
Last year at Heckscher, we released goats into a fenced-in, five-acre site overtaken by an invasive plant called Chinese Silvergrass (Miscanthus sinensis). The goal is for the goats to eat the silvergrass so there will be room for our native plants to again take hold. The goats also have been eating other invasives, including Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), common reed (Phragmites australis), and Japanese angelica tree (Aralia elata).
However, since goats will eat pretty much everything, we did not want them to eat the handful of native shrubs left in the enclosure, including eastern baccharis (Baccharis halimifolia), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), and common elder (Sambucus canadensis). So, we put up fences around these native plants to protect them so that when the goats leave, these shrubs will be able to spread into cleared areas.
Last year, we had a bit of a late start and only received
the goats in September, but by the end of the growing season in October, we had
70 goats moving and eating through the area. When the goats left for the
season, there was significant thinning of the silvergrass and quite a few
individual plants were eaten down to the ground. The goats also ate a lot of
the Japanese honeysuckle and, surprisingly, killed several angelica trees by
eating their bark. The bark and leaves of the angelica tree are covered in many
sharp thorns and spines to dissuade herbivores from eating it, but that didn’t
stop the goats, who happily stripped the bark right off the invasive trees!
This year, our goats arrived in June and as of this month,
we have 61 goats working in the area with more on the way. We have used a drone
to fly over the site to track their progress, and expect to do another flight
A hungry goat can eat up to 25 percent of its body weight
each day, said Larry Cihanek, owner of Green Goats with his wife, Ann. An adult
goat can weigh between 140 to 180 pounds, so that works out to up to 45 pounds
of invasive plants a day. For our herd at Heckscher, that is up to 2,700 pounds
of plant invaders being eaten every day!
And the goat “droppings” are a good source of nutrients for
the soil as well.
“Using goats like this is like mowing your lawn over and
over,” said Cihanek. “You keep the goats on site for a season, and they keep
eating as the plants continue trying to regrow. But the goats keep eating the
new growth and eventually they starve the roots bit by bit, and the plants will
The Cihaneks now have about 200 goats in their herd, with nearly all the animals being donated by former owners who had been using them for milking, for show purposes, or as pets.
“Eight years is about the maximum for milking, but goats can
live for 12 to 14 years. So, this is their second career with us,” he said. “Our
goats are living the American Dream: They eat for a living.”
In addition to helping project the environment, the goats are also a good way to draw more people into the park. “In some of our past projects, we have seen that attendance at a park can go up by about 20 percent after the goats come in,” said Cihanek.
Officials at Riverside Park in New York City even held a celebration after the goats finished working there this summer, making the goats the stars of a $1,000-a-ticket fundraiser at a lawn party in August. More than 800 people showed up and there was a contest to vote for the most popular goat, with the winner being Massey, who was presented with a medal and an elaborate bouquet of weeds.
If you would like to see the goats in action, they are staying through October in the eastern section of Heckscher State Park, to the north of the cottages. The Long Island Greenbelt Trail briefly passes a section of the enclosure when it turns westward.
If you see goats with numbered collars, these are the goats that were honored at Riverside Park.
The goats are quite friendly and like being petted. But
please, stay outside the fence and do not feed the goats. They are already surrounded
by all the food they need!
All photographs by New York State Parks unless otherwise credited.
Post by Yuriy Litvinenko, New York State Parks Regional Biologist for Long Island
As the third
most common tree in New York, hemlocks fill our forests and are found in many New
York State Parks. Located along hiking trails, streams, gorges, campsites, and
lake shores, the evergreens can live to be hundreds of years old, providing vital
ecosystem services and supporting unique habitats.
In addition to providing homes and food for many forest creatures, hemlocks also keep fresh water resources cool and clean by moderating water temperature and acting as a natural filtration system along streams. Since hemlocks are such a critical component of eastern forests, they are known as a “foundation species.”
Hemlocks in New York have been under attack by an invasive forest insect pest that originated from southern Japan, the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), which after being found in Virginia in the 1950s has spread to kill untold millions of hemlocks from Georgia to Maine.
Adelgids are tiny insects that insert piercing-sucking mouthparts into hemlock twigs, causing damage to woody tissue that inhibits water and nutrients from reaching emerging hemlock buds. This limits the growth of new twigs and eventually kills the tree.
in New York in the 1980s, the insects have spread through the Hudson Valley, Catskills,
Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions. Infested hemlocks can be found at state
parks including Harriman, Minnewaska, Taughannock Falls, Watkins Glen, Letchworth,
At about 6/100ths of an inch long, the flightless adelgids are hard to spot, but in the winter through early summer leave distinctive white “woolly” egg masses on hemlock twigs. In an infestation, developing buds are killed first, then in a few years, the weakened tree loses its needles and dies.
The threat posed
by HWA is dire, especially since the state’s ecosystems lack natural controls _
known as biocontrols _ such as predators or tree resistance that could fend off
some infestations and avert widespread hemlock destruction.
insecticide treatments are our only sure option for saving trees, but trees
must be treated on an individual basis, so it can be costly or impractical to
treat large swaths of hemlocks. In parks with thousands of trees and important
or rare ecosystems to protect, biocontrol is the only solution to counter a
pest like HWA.
But biocontrol against
the invading adelgid may be on the way. It is the form of a small dark beetle
and a small silvery fly, nicknamed “Little Lari” (Laricobius
nigrinus) and “Little Leuc” (Leucopis
spp.), respectively, by researchers at the New York State Hemlock Initiative at Cornell University.
Led by forest
entomologist Mark Whitmore, the program operates a biocontrol lab researching the introduction of HWA
predators throughout New York, hoping to protect hemlock trees by slowing the
spread of adelgids into new areas.
The NYSHI collects these predators in the Pacific Northwest where HWA is native and has many predators controlling population growth so the hemlocks are not damaged. The collected beetles and flies are shipped to the quarantine facility at Cornell to be certain none of the western adelgids are accidentally introduced into New York with the predators.
Knowing where to release these “good bugs” can be a challenge, but we are helped in this by State Parks staff, who provide critical data from ground surveys to find emerging infestations, assess potential biocontrol sites, and monitor for whether the biocontrol insects are thriving and growing in their new homes.
Read this post in the State Parks blog by Abigail Pierson, state Parks Forest Health Specialist, to learn how crews search for and document the presence of HWA.
when Leucopis silver fly releases
began, researchers have released more than 3,300 flies at several state park
sites including Taughannock Falls and Buttermilk Falls
state parks in Tompkins County.
While there has been no evidence of the biocontrol bugs suppressing HWA populations on a large scale, it takes time for predator populations to build. There has been recovery of Laricobius beetles at some sites, indicating establishment. By continuing to release more “Little Laris” and “Little Leucs” to bolster those established populations, we will be able to build on that initial success.
The list of parks that have reported HWA infestations is growing, especially in the Capital Region. Thacher State Park in the Capital Region reported adelgid infestations in 2017 and while insecticide treatments reduced the local problem, the insects continue to threaten the Adirondacks, which so far remains uninfested.
In State Parks,
preventing dead trees from injuring park visitors or damaging park
infrastructure including campsites and trails is crucial. Additionally,
preventing the loss of a critical foundation tree species in forest habitats is
another major priority.
can play an active role in slowing the spread of the adelgid in New York by
keeping an eye on hemlocks. Reporting any infestations that you find provides
researchers and land managers with invaluable data for improving our management
How You Can Help
If you believe you have found HWA:
Take pictures of the infestation signs (include something for scale such as a coin or ruler).
Note the location (intersecting roads, landmarks or GPS coordinates).
With fall almost here, now is the perfect time to enjoy the brilliant goldenrods and discover the array of interesting insects that visit them. There are many different kinds of goldenrod, but most are late-bloomers that don’t come into full bloom until late summer and fall.
Goldenrod continues blooming until the frost, which in New York ranges from late September to October, depending on location. As one of the few groups of wildflowers in peak flower at this time, many insects depend on these plants for food, feasting on the nectar and pollen.
There are more than two dozen species of goldenrod native to New York State. They are a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and most are in the Genus Solidago, but a few are in the Genus Euthamia and Oligoneuron. All but one species are deep golden yellow (silverrod, Solidago bicolor is white), with hundreds of tiny flowers making up the “inflorescence” or flower head.
If you are interested in learning more about insects, this is one of the easiest ways to get an up-close look at all different kinds.
You can find goldenrods in a variety of habitats from roadsides, fields, alongside open trails and bike paths, in the dunes of the ocean and Great Lakes shores, and on rocky summits. In almost every State Park you can find goldenrods, and perhaps you will discover you have some in your backyard, neighborhood garden or vacant lots.
State Park’s pollinator habitat initiative has also helped create areas for goldenrods, asters, milkweeds and native grasses by reducing mowing along some roadsides and fields
Many insects are attracted to the goldenrod flowers. Take a close look and be patient. You may find a variety of bees from bumble bees, carpenter bees, tiny mason bees and sweat bees. On a cool morning, the insects are often a bit sluggish which means they are less likely to fly away while you get in close. In fact, in morning or evenings, look for bumblebees sleeping upside-down under the goldenrod flower branches!
Beetles are another common visitor, like the ladybugs, lightening
and flower beetles. Perhaps you will find an inch-worm or another kind of caterpillar.
On sunny days, goldenrod patches are a good place to watch for butterflies like painted lady, monarch and viceroy across the state. On the coast, large numbers of monarch butterflies follow the path of the seaside goldenrod that grows in abundance on the dunes and upper edges of the beach. Without this vast food supply, many of those monarchs would not survive their long journey of up to 3,000 miles.
In addition to protecting the habitats where goldenrod thrives in the wild, this hardy perennial can also be a beautiful and important part of a pollinator garden or habitat, where birds and small mammals also benefit from the seeds. If you want to add some to your garden or landscape, some plant nurseries carry them, but check the New York Flora Atlas to make sure that the species is native to New York state and not listed as rare or invasive in New York.
Learning to appreciate goldenrods is a great way to support a whole suite of native flora and fauna.