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Lakefront park attracts culturally diverse visitors from throughout region

New York, NY — October 25, 2013 — Less than an hour north of New York City, Harriman State Park’s Lake Welch offers a welcoming escape for a culturally diverse patron base. Easily accessible in northern Rockland County, Lake Welch has inspired a loyal following due to its proximity to the city, natural offerings and welcoming atmosphere.

A visitor demographic study released by the Open Space Institute’s Alliance for New York State Parks finds the park to be a celebration of diversity with strong ties to New York City. Lake Welch is described as a family oriented, friendly destination, welcoming up to 400,000 people a year.

“This study confirms that state parks are relevant and needed by people from across many geographic and ethnic constituencies,” said Erik Kulleseid, executive director of the Alliance. “Lake Welch, with its swimming beach, picnic areas and tremendous natural beauty, clearly fills a need for families to relax, have fun and get away from city-life.” 

“The core of State Parks’ mission is connecting urban residents to the outdoors; to active, healthy lifestyles; to our natural and cultural treasures,” said Rose Harvey, commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.  “As the report shows, Lake Welch succeeds as a welcoming haven for the culturally diverse residents of the New York City area.”

The study, based on a survey and interviews conducted last summer by the Public Spaces Research Group at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, finds that more than 54 percent of visitors to Lake Welch live in New York City, with the Bronx (21.7 percent) and Manhattan (15.9 percent) leading the five boroughs. The park is also popular with New Jersey residents, with nearly 20 percent of its visitors traveling from the Garden State.

Another key finding of the study is the appeal of Lake Welch to Hispanic families. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of Lake Welch visitors are Hispanic.  

In addition to identifying demographic information of park-goers, the report captures individual visitor feelings and attitudes toward Lake Welch.  Interviews with patrons reveal meaningful connections that visitors have with the park.  Of great value to park goers overall are its welcoming and laid-back atmosphere and its appeal to families.  

“It’s wonderful to be able to document how visitors connect with this park, as well as their fellow park goers,” said Kulleseid.  “With this study we are able to better understand and appreciate Lake Welch, not only as a recreational and natural resource, but as a valuable social resource, as well.  The combined findings of this research underscore the need to continue public investment in state parks, particularly Lake Welch.”  

Kulleseid explained that, like so many New York State Parks, Harriman State Park is in need of significant repairs and upgrades. According to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, state parks face a capital backlog totaling approximately $1 billion. Harriman State Park, alone, requires more than $45 million in work, including $1.2 million for Lake Welch.

“Thankfully, over the past two years, through a renewed commitment by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature, more than $180 million has been allocate for state park improvements, of which $8.2 million is designated for Harriman,” said Kulleseid.”  “Continued investment in Lake Welch would ensure that this inviting state park can continue to offer high quality, affordable, family friendly recreation for its loyal visitors.”

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