Tag Archives: department of environmental conservation

First Day Hikes 2019

Whether it’s a much-needed elixir after a long holiday season or a first step in making (and keeping!) a resolution to be active in the new year, the 2019 First Day Hikes (FDH) are sure to draw thousands into New York’s great outdoors.

Each year on January 1, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) host these family-friendly events on public parkland across the State. This year’s line-up of 79 hikes includes some exciting new destinations in communities on the shores of Lake Ontario, Lake Champlain, and many more!

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Hikers at Two Rivers State Park, southern Finger Lakes

The popular, outdoor New Year’s Day tradition is in its 8th year. The first First Day Hikes were held in Massachusetts in 1992, but have since spread nationwide. This year marked the first time the FDH went ‘international’, with events held in neighboring Ontario, Canada.

Here in New York, the event has grown significantly since its inception. The 2019 First Day Hikes will be offered at more than 51 state parks and historic sites with some facilities offering multiple hikes for different age groups, skill level and locations. In addition, DEC will host 19 hikes at wildlife areas, trails and environmental education centers. Staff from State Parks and DEC, along with volunteers, will lead the walks and hikes, which range from one to five miles depending on the location and weather conditions.

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Exploring the trails in Moreau Lake State Park, eastern New York

For last year’s event, Mother Nature really tested people’s mettle. With frigid temperatures and snowy conditions across the state last New Year’s Day, a number of parks, sites, wildlife areas and nature centers cancelled or postponed their First Day Hike program, but many soldiered on and welcomed participants all bundled up who were looking forward to heralding in 2018 in the outdoors.

In fact, a pair of intrepid First Day Hikers braved the elements and joined not one, but two (!) First Day Hikes out in western New York. A Miami couple honeymooning in Niagara Falls attended the morning First Day Hike at DeVeaux Woods State Park, and had so much fun they decided to join the afternoon ice-covered FDH program at iconic Niagara Falls State Park (shown below).

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A beautiful day for a hike in Niagara Falls State Park.

Some host locations welcome dogs on leashes and several have flat, even surfaces for strollers. Participants are encouraged to contact the park for information and pre-registration where noted. A sample of this year’s programs feature a seal walk, walking history tour, snowshoe waterfall hike, pet-friendly treks, bird count gorge walks, military musicology, canal towpath walk, and other fun options.

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HIkers pause for a photo in  Minnewaska State Park Preserve in the Hudson Valley.

If conditions permit, some First Day Hikes may include snowshoeing or cross-country skiing with equipment for rent if available, or participants can bring their own. Many host sites will be offering refreshments and giveaways. A map and details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain, registration requirements and additional information are listed at parks.ny.gov and dec.ny.gov.

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This New Year’s Day, be inspired by the Florida newlyweds who attended two hikes in a single day in Niagara, or the hundreds of brave souls who joined the gorge walk at Taughannock Falls State Park in the Finger Lakes (shown above), or the families and friends who embrace the winter wonderland at state parks and DEC sites across our state… and start your own tradition today.

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Did You Know That Allegany State Park Played A Role In Wild Turkey Restoration?

The wild turkey is native to North America, but suffered severe declines due to wide-scale forest clearing and over hunting. By the mid-1800’s, this great bird was gone from New York state and much of the northeast. However, in the mid to late 1940’s, some wild turkeys were observed along the NY and PA border from Allegany State Park to the Genesee River Valley, a sign that the habitat might be recovering and able to support them again. So, in the early 1950’s, the New York State Conservation Department (forerunner to the NYS Dept. of Conservation) began a restoration effort in the early 1950s. They started with game farm turkeys, but after a few years, this effort failed because the game farm birds were not wild enough to avoid predation and lacked the capacity to survive.

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Flock of hens in the forest in the 1950’s.

Meanwhile, a healthy breeding population of wild turkeys expanded from Pennsylvania into the Allegany State Park region of New York. Park managers then gave the Conservation Department permission to trap turkeys in the park, initiating the wild turkey trap and transfer program which began in 1958 and concluded successfully in 1974. This program allowed for more rapid expansion of the turkey population to suitable unoccupied habitats.

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Tom turkey displays his tail.

The turkeys trapped in Allegany State Park were moved to several areas in the Region and then throughout the state. In addition to the in-state trap and transfer, turkeys from the park were also sent to Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Vermont. Other trapping efforts in the region and elsewhere in New York sent birds to Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island and the Canadian Province of Ontario. New York turkeys helped re-establish populations throughout the Northeast, Midwest and southeastern Canada.

New York State Conservation Department was one of the pioneers among state agencies to restore wild turkey populations in the United States. This program would not have been successful without the cooperation of Allegany State Park and to this day is recognized as one of the greatest wildlife management success stories of North America.

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2017 Monument commemorating the first wild turkey trap and transfer program, photo courtesy of Rick Miller, Olean Times Herald

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Wild Turkey Restoration exhibit in the Red House Natural History Museum, image from DEC Conservationist, October 2017, p 28.

First Day Hike 2018

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Join the “Military Musicology, Walking Tour of Old Fort Ontario”

What better way to kick off 2018 than to join family and friends in the outdoors on New Year’s Day for a First Day Hike. On January 1, New York State Parks and the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will be hosting a set of guided hikes as part of a nationwide effort to encourage people to get outdoors. Now in its 7th year, New York’s First Day Hike (FDH) program will offer 75 hikes across every region at state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas and trails.

Each year, this enjoyable holiday tradition draws more and more visitors with multiple hiking options from Western New York to the tip of Long Island.  Additionally, since some FDH events are held in the afternoon, there’s no need to get up early for those who like to celebrate New Year’s Eve with gusto!

Hikes are being offered at 59 state parks and historic sites, with some facilities offering multiple hikes for different age groups, skill level and destinations within the park; and at 14 DEC wildlife areas, trails and environmental educations centers.  Staff from State Parks and DEC, along with volunteers will lead these family-friendly walks and hikes, which range from one to five miles in length, depending on location and weather conditions.

“First Day Hikes have become a popular outdoor tradition for families and friends; a healthy way to kick off the New Year amidst the stunning beauty of our state’s most scenic natural backdrops,” said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. “This year’s program includes an expanded variety of winter walks and hikes and is the perfect reminder that New York’s parks are open year-round, offering world-class recreation and enjoyment for people with varying interests and abilities.”

Some host locations welcome dogs on leashes and several have flat, even surfaces for strollers.  Participants are encouraged to contact the park for information and pre-registration where noted.  A sample of this year’s programs feature a seal walk, a walking history tour, a snowshoe waterfall hike, pet-friendly treks, gorge walks, military musicology, canal towpath walk, and more.  New entries for 2018 include a bird survey, full-moon hike, mountain trails, views from a fire tower, and a walk through a maritime forest.

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Letchworth State Park will offer four different hikes from Letchworth CSI – Who Done It: Journey for young children to a fast-paced hike to the Great Bend Gorge.

The First Day Hikes program originated in neighboring state Massachusetts in 1992 for their state parklands. Since 2012, the program has been held in all 50 states and branded as America’s State Parks First Day Hikes. January 2018 marks the year that First Day Hikes will become an international movement with Ontario Parks in Canada offering these family favorites as well.

If conditions permit, some First Day Hikes may include snowshoeing or cross-country skiing with equipment for rent if available or participants can bring their own.  Many host sites will be offering refreshments and giveaways.  A map and details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain, registration requirements and additional information are listed at parks.ny.gov.

Last year’s event featured nearly 4,000 participants, who hiked a total of 7,900 miles amidst New York’s winter beauty. So, start your own tradition, grab some sturdy footwear and a warm jacket, and join in the fun!

I Love My Park

On Saturday, May 6, thousands of New Yorkers will again join their family, friends and neighbors at over 120 state parks and historic sites to participate in volunteer projects as part of the sixth annual I Love My Park Day, a partnership between New York State Parks and Parks & Trails New York.  On behalf New York State Parks, I look forward to welcoming you all to what is a remarkable day for the New York State Park system.

Sponsored jointly by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) and Parks & Trails New York, I Love My Park Day is a statewide event to improve and enhance New York’s parks and historic sites and bring visibility to the entire park system and its needs. Public parks in every corner of the State, from Jones Beach State Park to Niagara Falls State Park, will participate this year. Volunteers will have the opportunity to participate in clean up events at five national parks in New York State: Gateway National Recreation Area (Great Kills, Staten Island and Plumb Beach, Jamaica Bay, Queens); Fort Stanwix National Monument (Rome); Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites (Hyde Park); Fire Island National Seashore (Ocean Beach) and Saratoga Battlefield Historical Park (Stillwater), as well as fourteen properties managed by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in the Adirondack and Catskill Regions and at three environmental centers, Catskill Interpretive Center (Mount Tremper); Five Rivers Environmental Education Center (Delmar) and Reinstein Woods (Buffalo).  And, again this year, we will be joined across the state by members of the New York State Excelsior Conservation Corps (ECC), a New York State AmeriCorps program run by the Student Conservation Association, who will help State parks organize and implement I Love My Park Day projects.

Each year, a record number of volunteers turn out and complete an impressive array of projects to beautify our facilities and prepare them for the summer season. Volunteers will celebrate New York’s public lands by cleaning up debris, planting trees and gardens, restoring trails and wildlife habitat, removing invasive species, and working on various site improvement projects.    Your efforts demonstrate just how important your parks and historic sites are to your families, communities, and to our entire state as places to be active, explore the outdoors and relax with family and friends.  It is our honor to work every day to ensure that all state parks are open and accessible for all to visit, but we could not do it without you—the volunteers and friends who work not just on I Love My Park Day but year-round to make our parks and sites the very best they can be.

If you haven’t already registered, do so soon by visiting http://www.ptny.org/ilovemypark/index.shtml.

Post by Commissioner Rose Harvey

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Ice Fishing 101

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Young ice fisherman with a perch, photo by State Parks

Ice fishing opportunities abound in New York State.  Winter anglers can catch a variety of fish; primarily perch, sunfish, pickerel, northern pike and walleye.  In addition, many waters throughout the State are open to fishing for trout, lake trout and landlocked salmon.

Ice fishing requires doing a little homework.  Learning about the equipment needed, proper clothing, safety precautions, the water you want to fish, and fishing regulations are all part of a successful, enjoyable winter fishing experience.  Accompanying a friend on an ice fishing outing or visiting a tackle shop in a popular ice fishing area can be great ways to learn about the skills and equipment needed.  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) ice fishing webpage also has some very good information to help you get started and lists some of the waters where you can ice fish. Pay particular attention to the ice safety section. There are also a number of free fishing clinics held in New York each year, including ice fishing clinics.

DEC and State Parks will co-host a free ice fishing clinic from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, February 17, at Glimmerglass State Park in the town of Springfield, Otsego County.  The event will be moved to the public boat launch at Canadarago Lake just south of Richfield Springs on NYS Route 28 if there is not sufficient ice on Otsego Lake.  Find out if the clinic is going to run by contacting Glimmerglass State Park at 607-547-8662.

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Drilling the hole with an auger, by https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/Kairaus_%28edit%29.jpg

In order to ice fish, you must first cut a hole in the ice.  An ice auger is a good way to accomplish this.  Ice augers come in a variety of sizes, so try to use an auger that is appropriate to the species of fish you are after. You will also need an ice scoop to clean slush and ice chunks out of the hole after it is cut.

Ice fishing methods include “jigging” with short, light fishing rods and using tip-ups. There are many different kinds of jigging poles and tip-ups available.  Jigging involves the use of a jigging rod and either an ice jig or a small jigging spoon which is often tipped with a piece of bait.  Spikes and mousies (maggots) are a good bait to use for smaller panfish, while minnows are often used for larger species.  By jigging your bait (raising the rod tip up and down a few inches), you help attract fish to your bait.  Generally, you will jig the bait a few times, then pause for a few seconds.  Fish usually take the bait during the pause.

A tip-up is basically a spool on a stick that holds a baited line suspended through a hole in the ice. When the bait – usually a minnow – is taken by a fish, the pull on the line releases a signal, such as a red flag.

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Fish in similar areas you would during other seasons: weed lines, humps, depth changes, points, or other structure.  Contour maps can help you find some of these places.  Early morning or late afternoon tend to be the most productive times of day to fish.

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Proper clothing helps make an ice fishing trip enjoyable, photo by DEC Fisheries

Proper clothing is critical for safe ice fishing outings.  Dress warmly, paying extra attention to your head, feet and hands – dressing in layers is essential.

Be sure to look through a current copy of the New York Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide before heading out for regulations on ice fishing.  Be safe and have fun.

Post by DEC Fisheries