OSI and New York Parks expand access to Minnewaska

KERHONKSEN, NY —  October 23, 2015 — Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, today joined with the Open Space Institute (OSI) in unveiling a $7.3 million project  to create a much-needed gateway experience at Minnewaska State Park Preserve through a new, 6,000 square foot visitor center. The center, to be located near the entrance of the park, will further raise the stature of what has become a regional economic engine, and world-class recreational and tourism destination.

OSI has pledged to raise $3 million in private funds to support the center, which will better accommodate the growing number of visitors to the stunning Shawangunk destination, and deliver design and construction services.

“Governor Cuomo’s NY Parks 2020 plan is transforming our parks—and in doing so connecting new visitors and tourists to these incredible places,” said Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “The project at Minnewaska is the perfect example of how we are creating better access to New York’s great outdoors. I am grateful to OSI for its tireless support in preserving this dramatic landscape—and helping people to enjoy and appreciate it.”

“Through his Parks 2020 Initiative, Governor Cuomo is making an historic commitment to New Yorkers by restoring and modernizing our world-class state parks,” said Kim Elliman, President and CEO of the Open Space Institute. “OSI is proud to have joined with the state and other partners to build Minnewaska over the past 40 years. Today, as an extension of our commitment to the preservation and public enjoyment of this remarkable landscape, we join forces with the administration to create a gateway facility for visitors to better appreciate and enjoy Minnewaska’s dramatic Hudson Valley views, renowned carriage roads and important natural features and habitats.”

Visited by nearly 300,000 people a year, the park’s popular Lake Minnewaska area currently lacks the facilities and layout needed for its current status as a world-class tourism destination. The new building will orient visitors to the park’s recreational opportunities and natural features. It will also provide an exhibit area, classroom space for environmental education programs, public bathrooms, park offices and bring potable drinking water to the park for the first time.

In addition to the new visitor center, the park will also add a warming hut/pavilion to offer visitors a four-season place to rest, get out of the elements and conduct park programs

And in an effort to improve the overall approach and function of the park, the new plan will improve the parking areas at Lake Minnewaska to provide better organization and maximize capacity under the preserve’s stewardship guidelines, while creating better vegetative screening of parked vehicles. An existing parking area near the edge of Lake Minnewaska will be converted to a picnic ground. Also planned is a redesign of the main entrance on Route 44/55 to improve stacking practices for vehicles waiting to enter the park and add automated parking fee payment options to relieve traffic congestion and improve safety on peak visitation days.

The first phase of the multi-year project will begin with the reconstruction of the Route 44/55 entrance next spring.

OSI has a long and transformative history with Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Over the past 30 years, by way of 121 transactions totaling $86 million, OSI and its partners—including New York State—have worked to more than double the size of Minnewaska. With the critical support of donors Lucy Waletzky and Gil Butler, in concert with other generous contributors, OSI has joined with the state in restoring Minnewaska’s renowned historic carriage road system.

Today, Minnewaska State Park Preserve is a critical anchor of the regional tourism economy. A 2010 study found that Minnewaska, the Sam’s Point Preserve (which is now part of Minnewaska) and the Mohonk Preserve together contribute $12.3 million to the local economy and sustain 350 jobs. A recent The Pulse of Parks supported by OSI also noted the park’s role as a regional tourism destination, with 52 percent of visitors originating from counties immediately outside the park, mainly from New York City.

Situated atop the Shawangunk Ridge in Ulster County, the 23,000-acre park features dozens of panoramic views of the Hudson Highlands, Catskill Mountains and the farmland of the Wallkill and Rondout Valleys. The park features impressive sky lakes and waterfalls and is a world-class rock-climbing location. With 35 miles of historic carriage roads and nearly 40 miles of footpaths, the park welcomes a wide range of hikers, naturalists and bikers. 

Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York State is making a historic commitment to improving and expanding access to outdoor recreation. The Governor's NY Parks 2020 program is a multi-year commitment to leverage $900 million in private and public funding for State Parks from 2011 to 2020. The Governor's 2015-16 Executive Budget allocates $110 million toward this initiative.

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