Many New Yorkers thrive in winter and are eager for falling temperatures and consistent snowfalls. To these hardy adventurers, a few extra layers of gear combined with the snowy terrain of parklands is a winning recipe for fitness, togetherness and outdoor fun.
Welcome the new decade, enjoy the winter landscapes, and unwind after a hectic holiday season by joining a First Day Hike on January 1, 2020.
There are more than 75 such hikes planned at state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas, trails and public lands across the state as part of the 9th annual First Day Hikes program. This map can help find one near you…
Staff from State Parks and DEC, along with volunteers and partners at many sites, will lead these family-friendly walks and hikes, which range from one to five miles depending on the location and conditions. Remember to dress appropriately and keep this old Scandinavian saying in mind: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
A sample of this year’s programs feature a seal walk, walking history tour, snowshoe waterfall hike, pet-friendly treks, gorge walks, fire towers, and more. If weather conditions permit, some First Day Hikes may include snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Many host sites will be offering refreshments and giveaways.
Participants are encouraged to contact the park for information and pre-registration where noted.
And know that you are part of something that is happening all across America. First Day Hikes, which started in Massachusetts in 1992, are now a national event taking place in all 50 states.
Last year nearly 55,000 people rang in the New Year, collectively hiking over 133,000 miles throughout the country on the guided hikes. Numerous others hiked state park trails throughout the day.
If you’ve never been on a First Day Hike, 2020 is the year!
Cover photo: First Day hikers at a DEC fire tower. These hikers are wearing traction gear on their boots, which is important in steep or icy conditions.
After leaves are off the trees, but before the snow flies, park crews will create what is possibly the largest refrigerated outdoor ice rink in North America. And when they build it, hockey players young and old will come.
At 24,200 square feet, this mechanically-generated ice sheet is more than 40 percent larger than the temporary outdoor facilities set up by the National Hockey League, which plays a handful of its contests outside each year.
Behold the frozen home of the Binghamton Pond Festival (called Pond Fest for short), a series of outdoor amateur hockey tournaments and youth events in the park that started in 2016, and now is drawing hundreds of youth and adult players to Broome County in January from as far away as California and Texas.
Pond Fest owes it creation and growing success to two men — Tytus Haller, its founder, and Mike Boyle, manager at Chenango Valley State Park — and to the reliability of mechanical refrigeration to create and keep ice even when Mother Nature is not cooperating.
“Our first two years, in 2016 and 2017, we were running the tournament on the lake. We’d be out there checking the ice all the time,” said Haller.
And both years, unusually warm weather during the tournament left the ice in poor condition, which reduced the appeal to potential players. Said Haller, “The first couple of years, it was mainly a local crowd.”
But that all changed when Haller — the assistant director of the SUNY Broome Ice Center in nearby Binghamton — decided if winter was going to be unreliable, it was time to free Pond Fest from the weather with a mechanical refrigeration system.
Such systems use glycol, tubes, pumps, and “chiller” machines to drop the temperature of refrigerated tubing beneath a rink into the mid-teens. This forms an ice sheet that can be maintained even in warm weather.
All Haller had to do was figure out a way to get the equipment, which was going to cost a couple hundred thousand dollars.
With the help of state Sen. Fred Askhar, who got a $150,000 grant to help Chenango Valley buy much of the rink system, the 2018 tournament was the first played played on refrigerated ice.
“Things really took off then and in 2019, when word got out what we had and what we were doing,” Haller said. “I have not found anyone else in North America that has a refrigerated outdoor rink as large as ours.”
Now, the tournament in the park is drawing youth and adult teams from states beyond New York including New Jersey, Massachusetts, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, and California.
One of those coming in with a youth team in 2020 is Dallas resident Seth Turner. He has ties to Haller and the region after attending and playing hockey at Broome Community College some two decades ago.
He attended the initial Pond Fests without refrigeration, and saw how it all changed once the equipment was added. Now a youth hockey coach in Dallas, Turner pitched the idea of a January trip to upstate new York to local families, and eight are taking on the expense to send their kids to Pond Fest.
“Having refrigeration is the pitch,” Turner said. “I was able to tell parents that their kids would be playing, no matter what, whether it was raining, or sunny, or snowing. And that we would be playing in a beautiful park, in the woods. That made it an easy sell.”
Hockey is an increasingly popular sport in Dallas, he said, due to the presence of the city’s NHL team, the Stars. Local interest is even stronger now that the NHL will play its outside “Winter Classic” on a refrigerated ice sheet in that city’s Cotton Bowl in January.
At Pond Fest, adults have three-on-three and four-on-four tournaments. Youth teams have six and 16 players for a weekend of hockey and other fun in the park. Pond Fest also hosts a skills and skating clinic and will now offer private rentals of the ice sheet.
Boyle said the festival draws fans and families into the 1,137-acre park along the Chenango River, which also features sledding and cross-country skiing in the winter. The park’s two lakes – Chenango and Lily – were formed as glaciers retreated at the end of the most recent Ice Age.
“We love this
event,” Boyle said. “We hope this keeps going for years and years to come.”
The park has added a fire hydrant near the rink, to make it easier to spray water on the rink mat system. Water has to be sprayed repeatedly in thin layers to freeze in order to make the strongest ice, a process that can take about a week to get the proper thickness on such a large ice sheet.
“Our crew here at Chenango Valley State Park has been fantastic. We have learned a lot about making an ice rink,” said Boyle. “We could build an ice rink in Florida now, if we had to.”
An electrical power upgrade is also in the works, which will reduce the need for portable electric generators that Haller has been bringing to power his multiple chiller units and pumps that move the 2,750 gallons of chilled glycol through the rink’s tubing system. His not-for-profit organization, Broome Winterworks, devotes about $25,000 annually to cover equipment rental, which is just a small part of the expenses that go into the event.
Haller said the tournament in the park has turned into an economic benefit for the county, as visitors need lodging and meals.
“There are not a lot of outdoor tournaments that have a refrigerated system like we do. We are getting visitors coming up here from southern states, because they know we are going to have ice, even if it is 60 degrees and sunny,” he said. “It is no different than when people from New York State go south to the beaches during the winter. We have something here that they want and many of our players refer to the Binghamton area as a hidden gem.”
In addition to creating the wintertime fun, the multi-weekend event donates money to various youth programs including more than $23,000 so far to fight youth suicide, said Joanne Weir, development director of the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier. The money supports the association’s DFID (Do It For Daron) program, named after a 14-year-old who died by suicide.
“We are thankful for the awareness that is provided to our association by this amazing event,” said Weir. “The Binghamton Pond Festival has continued to grow each year, and so have the conversations. Every step that we can take at breaking down the stigma associated with mental illness is a win – on or off the ice!”
Post by Brian Nearing, Deputy Public Information Officer, NYS Parks.
All photos courtesty of Binghamton Pond Festival
Have a team interested in playing at Pond Fest? Registration information is available here.
Interested in ice skating available at other State Parks this winter? Check out this list.
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.
The nation’s oldest State Fair has come a long way since it started in 1841 as a two-day event in Syracuse _ with highlights that included a plowing contest, which was no doubt of interest to an audience that was very familiar with farm life.
Drawing about 15,000 visitors then, the Fair has grown over the decades and last year, set a record with about 1.3 million visitors at the 13-day event.
This year’s fair will run from Wednesday, Aug. 21, through Sept. 2, and feature more than 80 live concerts spread across five stages, 200 food vendors, 70 rides, and more than 10,000 animals.
A $120 million plan by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to revitalize the fairgrounds wrapped up last year, when the 136,000-square-foot Expo Center, the largest indoor events space north of New York City between Boston and Cleveland, was unveiled.
Earlier work at the fairgrounds included a full-service RV park for 313 campers, a larger, relocated Midway area, a new Main Gate entrance, a new exhibit area for the New York State Police, and the Sky Ride, a 1,400-foot long chairlift ride. The Indian Village, a part of the Fair since 1928, also received renovations to its Turtle Mound, the home of cultural performances..
Last year’s turnout ranked New York as the fourth-largest state fair in the nation, behind Texas (2 million), Minnesota (2 million) and New England (1.5 million).
Present-day attendance is about double what the Fair was drawing during the 1950s and 1960s, as New York and the rest of the U.S. basked in a post-war economic boom tinged by a bit of Cold War angst.
So take a little trip in the time machine, and see the State Fair as it was then, contrasted with as it is today. All photographs courtesy of the New York State Fair. Click to the first picture to start the slideshow…
And will you be seen at the Fair this year?
Posted by Brian Nearing, deputy public information officer
With more than 2,000 miles of marked trails across New York, the State Parks have something for hikers of every ability. That includes the beautiful Taconic Region, located on the east side of the Hudson River and stretching through Columbia, Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties.
Palatial estates, highland trails, Hudson River vistas and woodland campgrounds define some of the exceptional treasures to be found in a region with 14 parks and eight historic sites.
If you are new to hiking or have not yet explored hikes in this region, named for the Taconic Mountain range that runs north-to-south along the state border with Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, here are some suggestions to start you out.
As 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.
Hiking 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.
These 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…
It never hurts to know how long a trail is and how long it ought to take to finish it. Since daylight is not an unlimited resource, 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.
Rockefeller State Park Preserve, 125 Phelps Way, Pleasantville, (914) 631-1470: With 55 miles of crushed stone carriage roads that crisscross the former country estates of petroleum tycoons John D. Rockefeller and William Rockefeller, the preserve offers a wide variety of hikes for any ability, with the carriage trails offering a consistent, predictable surface. After parking at the preserve office, follow the markers for Brother’s Path, a 1.1-mile loop around scenic Swan Lake. Heading south on the Brother’s Path, there a connection on the right to the .9-mile Overlook Path, a gentle climb and a good place to spot Eastern Bluebirds and get a beautiful view of Swan Lake. The preserve is home to more than 180 different species of birds and 120 different species of native bees.
Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, 2957 Crompond Road, Yorktown Heights, (914) 245-4434 : This is a short hike in the woods on level terrain leaving to a small pond. From the parking lot for the swimming pool, take the white-marked trail, turning onto the blue-marked, 1.2-mile trail for Crom Pond. At the end, turn around, or continue on the orange-marked, .7-mile Mohansic Trailway through more woods before turning around.
Fahnestock State Park, 1498 Route 301, Carmel, (845) 225-7207: Hike, sunbathe and swim all at one location. Start at the Canopus Beach Parking Lot, where you can pick up the blue blazed AT Connector Trail from the north corner of Canopus Beach. A short 0.3-mile hike passing along the edge of Canopus lake will lead you to the famous Appalachian Trail. Turn right and take the white blazed AT trail northbound. A steep section of trail will lead you to a beautiful viewpoint over Upper and Lower Canopus lakes. Continue north and after one mile on the AT turn right and head south onto another blue blazed AT connector trail. A rolling 0.75-mile hike will lead you back to the Canopus Beach Parking Lot and all the other activities.
Mills Norrie State Park, 9 Old Post Road, Staatsburg, (845) 889-4646: This park has a very scenic hike along the Hudson River. Turn onto Norrie Point Way and follow signs for the Marina, where you find signs for the White Trail. If you brought a kayak or canoe, you can put it into the river there. The White Trail is approximately two miles long and and leads to Staatsburgh State Historic Site, the elegant 65-room country mansion of Ogden Mills and his wife Ruth Livingston Mills. You can choose to take the White Trail back along the river, or the Blue Trail. Along this wooded trail you can view the historic Hoyt House and Carriage Barns. While at Staatsburgh, catch a view of the 148-year-old Esopus Meadows Lighthouse on the river. If you plan to visit by boat, the Mills Norrie State Park marina has 145 boat slips.
Lake Taghkanic State Park, 1528 Route 82, Ancram, (518) 851-3631: Start at the parking lot at the swimming beach, and pick up the white-marked Lakeview Trail, which goes about 5 miles around the lake but is not a loop. It can be hiked as an out-and-back by going either north or south on the trail, which is mostly level and good for all abilities.