While there aren’t public events in State Parks this week to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on Wednesday, some of our facilities are still helping the planet every day in the fight against man-made climate change.
Each year, Parks use more than 50 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity to power some 5,000 buildings, including offices, comfort stations, maintenance barns, nature and visitor centers, cabins, historic sites, and other unique facilities like golf courses and pools.
To feed more renewable power into the grid and reduce its demand for fossil fuel-fired electricity, Parks has been installing photovoltaic (PV) solar arrays since 2012. There are now 32 arrays in place, with more expected this year in the Hudson Valley and Long Island regions.
Once the new arrays are completed this year, State Parks will be covering 15 percent of its total statewide energy consumption through solar power, up from the current 4 percent.
These new arrays will offset all the power demand in the Park’s Taconic Region on the eastern side of the Hudson River, which includes 14 parks and eight historic sites in Columbia, Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties.
Adding solar power – which unlike natural gas or other fossil fuels does not produce the greenhouse gases that are driving man-made climate change – also saves Parks money on its utility bills. Each year, solar arrays are trimming nearly $340,000 from what Parks would otherwise pay for its electricity!
To perform this work, which both fights climate change and saves money, Parks have trained 100 staff members to design and install our solar arrays.
Parks selects locations for PV arrays that will not disturb natural areas of the park or areas of recreation. They are often installed on rooftops, the back of parking lots, or in other areas that have previously been disturbed.
Parks also applies for financial rebates from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYERDA) to lower the cost of each project, with savings then reinvested to fund future PV projects. Parks also coordinates with private utility companies to connect its arrays to the grid.
Completed in 2017, Robert Moses State Park made history as being the largest PV installation built by state employees _ its 2,432 American-made panels cover the length of two football fields! This array generates about 950,000 kWh annually, saving more than $100,000 in electricity bills. (For comparison’s sake, the average household in New York State uses about 8,000 kWh annually, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration).
Solar power made made Robert Moses the first electric energy neutral state park of its size in the country. The array even covers the energy usage of Captree State Park which makes it the second electric energy neutral state park.
Parks also funded, developed, built and managed the first PV installation on the roof of a building listed on the National Historic Register at Peebles Island State Park, headquarters of the Bureau of Historic Sites and Bureau of Historic Preservation Field Service.
The 450 panels installed on the roof of Peebles’ historic Bleachery Building are projected to generate more than 188,000 kWh and save about $22,500 in utility bills annually. The array covers approximately 30 percent of the building’s energy use. The array at Peebles Island is also used a training location for students from Hudson Valley Community College and the Glenmont Job Corps.
And there will be much more to come. State Parks intends to aggressively increase its solar footprint in order to cover half of its statewide electrical consumption by 2025.
From our smallest arrays to our largest arrays, each PV installation is working to create a greener state parks system every day and for many Earth Days to come!
Cover Photo- Robert Moses State Park solar array. All photos by NYS Parks.
By Caity Tremblay, Parks Energy and Sustainability Bureau
“Can you imagine anything freer and more exciting than when you, swiftly as a bird, zoom down the wood-clad hillsides while country air and spruce twigs whiz by your cheeks and eyes; brain and muscles tense, ready to avoid any unknown obstacle which any moment might be thrown in your path? You are one with your skis and nature. This is something that develops not only the body but the soul as well, and it has a deeper meaning for a people than most of us perceive.”
— Fridtjof Nansen – Norwegian explorer, scientist, humanitarian and advocate for cross-country skiing, 1890
The use of skis to cross winter terrain dates back millennia, with the oldest-known image of a person on skis carved about 5,000 years ago into the rock of a Norwegian island.
When winter graces the state with snow, State Parks are a great place to enjoy cross-country skiing, with many miles of ski trails for all abilities, from beginner to expert across 104 state parks and eight historic sites spanning the state.
Known in shorthand as XC (or also as Nordic) skiing, this family-friendly sport is a full-body, low-impact cardio workout as well as a wonderful way to get outdoors during winter to see how beautiful the season can be. Skiing is quiet as well, so skiers often have a chance to spot wildlife (and also get a close look at its tracks) that has not been scared off by their approach.
After a promising December start for XC skiing, this season has suffered from a dearth of snow. Perhaps a snowstorm or two is still to come before spring, or if not, this list can be held until the start of next season. Always call ahead to check on snow conditions.
This online map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also is a handy tool for getting a picture of snow cover across the state when planning a ski trip.
Either way, to help decide where to go in State Parks when conditions allow, here are some staff favorites. Check each park’s website for a map of their trails:
With 24 miles of trails, the Art Roscoe Cross Country Ski Area at Allegany State Park in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, offers some of best groomed skiing in western New York. Novices can try the 3.5-mile Christian Hollow Trail, a loop with gentle grades, or the multi-use, 3.5-mile Red House Bike Path.
Intermediate skiers can try the 3.3-mile Patterson Trail, which is a former rail bed. There are parking areas at both ends of the gently sloping trail, so a shuttle trip can be done by leaving cars at both ends.
Other more adventurous skiers can tackle the Ridge Trail for a 7.7- mile trek geared to intermediate to advanced skiers.
Ski equipment rentals are available at the park’s gift shop at the Red House Administration Building. Trail reports can be found online here.
Finger Lakes Region
The extensive trail network at Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area in Springwater, Livingston County, has grooming and is about an hour’s drive south of Rochester. Be prepared to share some of the trails with fat tire bikers on occasion.
A golf course can be a great place for novices to learn and practice, since such terrain is open, free of obstructions and tends not to be very steep. Going doing hill as a beginner? Remember to hold those skis in a “V” shape to control your downhill speed as you test out the friendly terrain at Soaring Eagles Golf Course at Mark Twain State Park in Horseheads, Chemung County.
There are 12 miles of trails at Selkirk Shores State Park in Pulaski, Oswego County. A staff favorite is a beginner/intermediate three-mile loop that incorporates the Front Pond Trail, Pine Grove Trail, a section of the 52C snowmobile trail, and Red Fox Trail, before returning to the Pine Grove Trail
Verona Beach State Park, in Verona Beach, Onedia County, offers miles of trails where they might encounter wildlife like white tailed deer, squirrels, foxes, and more. The two-mile Hog’s Back Trail loop follows a natural rise along Verona Beach’s massive swamp. Keep your eyes open at the overlooks for a potential glimpse of the nest of a mated pair of bald eagles.
There are about 15 miles of trails at Gilbert Lake State Park in Laurens, Otsego County. The mile-long trail around the namesake lake is periodically groomed, as is the two-mile Ice Pond Trail to the Twin Fawns Lake Trail.
In Wyoming County, head for Letchworth State Park in Castile, and its Humphrey Nature Center and the Winter Recreation Area at Trailside Lodge. Here, there are three beginner trails, each about 1.5 miles long.
The park contains seven different parking areas to access about 15 miles of (usually ungroomed) trails. Glide through old-growth forest on the Gravel Loop and the Bishop Woods Loop. For great views of the spectacular Great Bend Gorge, check out the Chestnut Lawn Loop.
Long Island Region
There are two ungroomed trails at the Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown, Suffolk County _ the 1.5-mile beginner Green Trail that goes through woods, fields and wetlands, and the 1-mile Orange Trail that offers view of Willow Pond.
At the Connetquot River State Park Preservein Oakdale, Suffolk County, there are many miles of marked hiking trails that can be skied. There is no grooming, and trails range from one to eight miles in length. The preserve includes an historic former sportsmen’s club and a newly-restored 18th century gristmill.
About six miles of ungroomed trails, ranging from intermediate to advance, are found at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park, Suffolk County. Take the Field 4 Trail to ski through woods before reaching overlooks for Sunken Meadow Creek and Long Island Sound. No skiing is allowed on the golf course.
At Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora, Erie County, explore the Outer Loop Trail that begins at the Red Barn Parking Lot. A 2.7-mile trail suitable for beginners, it meanders through open pastures and fields, with some short legs through forests and views of farmlands and valleys.
Explore trails at Evangola State Park in Irving, Chautauqua County, to capture views of Lake Erie. The trail network covers about five miles, with the Rim Trail running along the edge of the lake.
At Mine Kill State Park in North Blenheim, Schoharie County, start at the park office for the moderate, three-mile Long Path/Bluebird Trail Loop, which offers sweeping views of the Schoharie Valley and the Blenheim-Gilboa Reservoir. Snowshoes and a small assortment of XC skis are free to borrow from the Park Office with a small deposit.
The moderate/intermediate Shaver Pond Trail at Grafton Lakes State Park in Grafton, Rensselaer County is a two-mile loop around the pond, where you can often see signs of beaver activity. The trail has some roots and rocks, so be mindful of snow cover. The park office rents snowshoes, but not skis.
Skiers have been going to Thacher State Park in Voorheesville, Albany County, for years because of its extensive trail network. Try out the lesser-used North Zone of the park, and its Fred Schroeder Memorial Trail, a three-mile intermediate loop through fields and forests. Use the Carrick Road parking area.
Beginners can practice on groomed trails that run for a total of three miles through the camping loops and around the lake at Moreau Lake State Park in Moreau, Saratoga County. There is skiing on ungroomed trails through the rest of the park.
While there are no marked or groomed trails for skiing at James Baird State Park in Pleasant Valley, Dutchess County, the park’s golf course and many small, undulating hills there are a great place for beginners to practice climbing, turning, slowing and (maybe a little) falling.
Skiers could spend days touring the 25 miles of carriage roads at Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Pleasantville, Westchester County. Some favorites are the beginners’ 1.15-mile Brothers Path/Swan Lake Carriage Road, with views of the lake; the Thirteen Bridges/Gory Brook Carriage Roads, which along 2.5 miles of intermediate terrain offer view of the Pocantico River and waterfalls; and the intermediate Rockwood Hall Middle, Lower and Foundation Loop Carriage Roads, that go past the Hudson River.
There are 12 miles of trails at Fahnestock Winter Park in Carmel, Putnam County. Equipment rentals are available at the lodge, which also marks the start of the popular Lake Trail. Weather permitting, trails are also groomed on the lake. The trail will take you by a beaver lodge, over the dam built by the Civil Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, and past many small islands.
Cross-country skiing at Old Croton AqueductState Historic Park in Dobbs Ferry, Westchester County can be as near as one’s own backyard, as most of the ungroomed 26-mile trail is bordered by homes. As the park is level, the area is great for those who are new to the sport.
The Aqueduct is crossed by many streets, and the best cross-country skiing is found in the sections with the fewest road crossings. Top on the list is the section from Gory Brook Road in Sleepy Hollow to Country Club Lane in Scarborough, about two and a half miles of level trail through the woods. This section connects to Rockefeller State Park Preserve. Those who like hills should enter Rockefeller Preserve just north of the Weir chamber and follow the Peggy’s Way trail south for some gentle hills before returning to the Aqueduct.
Another popular area is at the northernmost section by the Croton Dam. Here the trail clings to the sides of a steep gorge through which runs the Croton River. The Gorge is a park of its own, operated by the Department of Environmental Conservation and called the Croton Unique Area. Only two lightly-traveled roads cross the 2.5 miles of wooded Aqueduct trail as it heads south to Croton.
Curiously the most densely-populated area through which the trail runs also features a fine area for skiing. This section, likewise of about 2.5 miles, has two road crossings, but almost all of it runs through the woods, with unparalleled winter views of the Hudson River and Palisades.
There are stunning clifftop views from trails at Minnewaska State Park Preserve in Kerhonkson, Ulster County. Being free of rocks, roots and other obstructions, the 16-mile network of carriage trails are wide and “skiable” even with only a few inches of snow.
Thousand Island Region
At Robert Moses State Park in Massena, St. Lawrence County, there are more than five miles of trails through the woods and along the St. Lawrence River in NY. The Nicandri Nature Center offers ski and snowshoe loans for all ages as well as ski instruction.
In the western Adirondacks, Higley Flow State Park in Colton, St. Lawrence County, has the popular 1.3-mile Overlook Trail that passes through a pine and spruce forest. This trail connects with the Backcountry Trail (1.9 miles) and the Warm Brook trail (1.6 miles) for those wishing to challenge themselves further.
This is just a sampling of the ski trails at State Parks. So, when snow is on the ground, grab your skis, and get out there!
Cover Photo: Skiers at Saratoga Spa State Park. All photos by State Parks.
By Brian Nearing, Deputy Public Information Officer for NYS Parks
Read this history of cross-country skiing in the Adirondacks.
In 2012, one of the largest weather events in New York’s recorded history swept across the state’s southeastern border. Superstorm Sandy’s wrath bore down as counties upstate and on Long Island were still recovering from the devastating flood waters and wind damage brought by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in late summer 2011. Fourteen counties were declared federal disaster areas, thousands of lives were affected, countless miles of roads closed or washed out, and hundreds of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed by storm surge and catastrophic flooding. However, in typical New York style, once the storm subsided, people from across the state came together to begin the recovery effort.
Five years after the storms, the state is continuing to invest funds in order to ensure that New York is more resilient and better prepared to withstand future storm impacts. Although most of the attention has understandably focused on housing reconstruction and high-profile infrastructure proposals, there is a quieter, but no less critical story to be told, about our State Parks. Led by the tireless efforts of Governor Andrew Cuomo, state government has worked closely with local governments and community organizations to make the state park system more resilient than ever.
According to a recent report by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR), the state has received over $4 billion in Community Development Block Grants for disaster recovery (CDBG-DR) from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The CDBG-DR program was implemented by HUD in the 1970s to promote long-term recovery efforts in communities affected by disasters. Through this program, managed by GOSR, approximately $111 million of these funds have been invested toward resiliency improvements at four State Park facilities – Robert Moses, Jones Beach and Hempstead Lake State Parks on Long Island, and Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx.
One of the jewels of the state park system, Jones Beach State Park on Long Island’s south shore welcomes nearly six million visitors to swim, sunbathe, recreate and relax at its white sandy beaches every year. Less than 20 miles from New York City, the park is a vital public resource for the millions of residents and visitors in the community. During Sandy, the park suffered significant damage to its buildings and infrastructure. Thanks to $4 million in grant funding from GOSR, State Parks will be able to upgrade the park’s drainage infrastructure to slow down and filter stormwater runoff and help improve water quality at the popular Zach’s Bay swimming area. The project also includes funding to install flood resistant doors and windows on select buildings with critical infrastructure. Further, by incorporating native plantings and continuing to conserve the large natural areas in the park, the landscape can better buffer the impacts of storms on facilities in the park and around the bay.
Robert Moses State Park, located on the western end of Fire Island, is best known for its five miles of public beaches which receive over four million visitors a year. The beaches and dunes on barrier islands, like those at Jones Beach or Robert Moses, serve as a crucial buffer between the open ocean and the coastal towns, helping to reduce the damaging effects that can occur during storm events. The natural habitats, animals, and plants of these places are adapted to the changing shoreline and the movement of sand, but roads and homes are not. During Sandy, Robert Moses State Park experienced severe erosion of its beaches from wind, waves, and heavy surf. Though nature would likely restore these beaches over time, there was high risk of damage to roads and buildings in the park. Grant funds through the CDBG-DR program helped stabilize these vulnerable areas of the park by nourishing those sections of beaches to return them to their pre-storm conditions. Additional CDBG-DR funding will also go toward replacing the park’s existing water treatment plant with a newer, more flood-resistant facility elevated above the current flood zone.
Improvements are also underway at Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx, which spans 25 acres along the Harlem River in the Morris Heights neighborhood. The park provides recreational facilities for underserved communities in the region in addition to serving as a coastal barrier for residents and local infrastructure, including the nearby River Park Towers residential complex and an adjacent Metro North station. During Sandy, floodwaters rose to more than three feet above the park’s 40-year-old bulkhead, damaging the park’s lower plaza and esplanade. CDBG-DR funds will be used to give this critical neighborhood gathering place a much-needed makeover. The outdated bulkhead will be replaced, and the esplanade will be rebuilt with modern infrastructure elements and green design (including landscaping with plants native to this area). These efforts will create a more stable, resilient shoreline and park facility.
Finally, plans are under development to invest $35 million in CDBG-DR funds at Hempstead Lake State Park on Long Island, as part of the larger $125 million Living with the Bay project. The Living with the Bay project aims to connect communities along Nassau County’s Mill River watershed and strategically install protective measures to help mitigate flooding, improve water quality, and enhance the overall ecology from Hempstead Lake State Park to the South Shore Estuary. As part of the overall project, major improvements will be made to the park, including rehabilitating a century-old dam and non-functional control systems, renovating multi-use trails, constructing fishing piers and boat launches, dredging park ponds (to increase water storage capacity during flood events), and constructing a “floatables catcher” to help capture trash that flows into the park during heavy rain events. A multi-purpose educational facility will also be constructed and will serve as a coordination center during emergencies.
Installing wetlands project
Constructing river rock dams to control water flow
Constructing a “floatables collectors’
Storms are a natural and often necessary part of maintaining our coastal ecosystems, but can be devastating to our homes, our communities, and businesses. Although New York has made tremendous progress recovering from the damages suffered during Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee, there is still more work to be done. Governor Cuomo, recognizing the value of our parks to the state’s economy and to the health and well-being of its residents, has helped marshal the resources the agency needs for both immediate rebuilding and more strategic long-term recovery efforts. New York will continue to invest in its state parks to help us continue to become more resilient and able to meet the challenges yet to come.
Post by Ben Mattison, Excelsior Fellow, State Parks
As we celebrate Earth Day we’d like to tell you a little bit about some of the projects our Energy & Sustainability Office is working on that benefit the environment. Particularly we’d like to tell you how they are developing renewable energy projects all across the state. State Parks has developed several solar arrays over the last few years. Solar arrays use panels to catch sunlight. You’ve probably seen them on the roofs of houses in your neighborhood or maybe even your own house. The panels catch the light from the sun and turn that into electricity for use in the house or building.
NYS Parks has completed 13 solar installation projects to date. Our goals is use the sun to power part or all of our Parks. As a result of their work State Parks is recognized as the leading renewable energy agency in the state. Most installations were completed by trained in-house State Parks employees after they went through a solar power training course at HVCC. By training employees to install solar arrays, Parks is able to save money and give employees the opportunity to learn valuable skills that give them a better understanding of the project. State Parks currently has about 50 staff members with this training and continues to train more each year.
Beginning in 2012 with the construction of the rooftop array on the Niagara Falls Discovery Center State Parks renewable energy projects have grown in number and size. State Parks Staff have installed arrays in several parks across the state including, Niagara Falls, Letchworth, Robert Moses, and Grafton Lakes.
The 13th solar installation was at Robert Moses State Park in Long Island, and will become the first energy neutral State Park in the United States. The nearly 700 kilowatt solar array will save more than $100,000 each year. Built with 2,432 panels, this pole-mounted array is located in the back of parking field 4 of Robert Moses State Park. The solar panels are made in the United States by SolarWorld and supplied by National Solar Technology in Buffalo. This is the largest solar installation by State employees in the State’s history.
Currently Parks is installing a new solar system with a 144 kW capacity at the headquarters of the Historic Preservation Office, Peebles Island State Park in Cohoes. The array will account for more than 20% of the electricity used by the complex. Parks is also constructing a solar array on the roof of the Bathhouse at Lake Taghkanic State Park. This 40kW solar array will provide more than 25% of the buildings electric need.
Fourth of July is nearly upon us and it is time to hit the beach! And beaches mean sand – sand to build sand castles, sand that tickles your toes during beach strolls, and sand for beach volleyball and bocce.
But what is beach sand? According to http://www.merriam-webster.com, sand is “a loose granular material that results from the disintegration of rocks, consists of particles smaller than gravel but coarser than silt.” These small particles are less than 1/10th of an inch in diameter. The mineral makeup of individual sand particles depends on local and regional rocks, which are eroded by ice and rain, then carried to the ocean by rivers where they are deposited on gently sloping beaches. The size of individual sand particles is dependent on the slope of the beach, both above and below waterline. The color of beach sand is influenced by nearby landscapes and ocean bottom.
Photo courtesy of OPRHP.
Photo courtesy of OPRHP.
Photo courtesy of OPRHP.
In New York, many beaches have a variety of minerals including quartz, white or clear particles; feldspar, buff-colored particles; and magnetite, black particles. On beaches around the world you will find lava (black beaches), coral (pink beaches), garnet (purple beaches), olivine crystals (green beaches) and more. Some beaches have unique sand such as the orange Kerala coast beach sand in India.
New York State Parks have over 65 beaches on lakes, ponds, rivers, bays, and the Atlantic Ocean. Let’s take a closer look at the sands on a few of those beaches …
Along Lake Erie
The sand on the beach at Evangola State Park in southern Erie County is principally quartz, feldspar, magnetite, with smaller amounts of garnet, calcite, ilmenite, and hornblende. All of the particles are approximately the same size.
Along Lake Ontario
Located northwest of Rochester, Hamlin Beach State Park beach sands are mostly quartz, hypersthene (brown and gray), and augite (greenish).
On Long Island
Jones Beach State Park has 6-1/2 miles of Atlantic Ocean shoreline; different sections of beach have slightly different sands. Some parts of the beach have sand that is mostly comprised of quartz with a little feldspar and tiny shell fragments. Note that the clear quartz particles have different sizes.
Other sections of beach at Jones Beach State Park have quartz, garnet, and magnetite sand with a few tiny shell fragments. All of the particles are about the same size.
The beach at Robert Moses State Park, also on the Atlantic Ocean side, is mixture of quartz, garnet, magnetite, and shells. The shell in the photo is about 1/3” long; larger glass piece is about 1/6” long.