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OSI Project Lays Groundwork for Makeover of Watkins Glen State Park

Photo Credit: Ron Rothman

WATKINS GLEN, NY (July 2, 2018)—Building on groundwork by the Open Space Institute (OSI), a new main entrance and a series of transformative improvements have been unveiled at Watkins Glen State Park. Most notably, the new entrance, completed on land conserved by OSI in 2016, will improve public access while enhancing safety in the park.

OSI’s purchase of land adjoining the park allowed officials to repurpose the previous parking area at the base of the gorge into green space, creating new park amenities and enhanced interpretation of Watkin Glen's unique natural and cultural history. The project relocated a parking area away from the gorge and across Franklin Street, to OSI-secured property, to improve vehicular traffic flow on village streets and pedestrian traffic flow in the park, while transferring the old asphalt parking lot into a more natural landscaped park setting.

This "before" image of the Watkins Glen State Park entrance shows the parking lot in the gorge.
This "before" image of the Watkins Glen State Park entrance shows the parking lot in the gorge.
Photo Credit: Erik Kulleseid

“Watkins Glen State Park is a jewel of the Finger Lakes region, a spectacular recreational destination and a significant economic asset,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of OSI. “With the creation of this new entrance, OSI is proud of the pivotal role it played in improving the overall visitor experience at Wakins Glen and showcasing the park’s exquisite beauty and grandeur. OSI thanks Governor Cuomo and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for their commitment to Watkins Glen and the citizens of New York.” 

The area that had been used for parking now features:

  • A new visitor welcome center offering information about the park and other attractions in the region;
  • A small outdoor amphitheater and improved educational displays on the park's human history and natural and geologic features, including a touchable model of the gorge;
  • A new viewing area where people unable to hike the gorge will be able to enjoy a dramatic waterfall;
  • Renovation and expansion of the existing concession building with expanded Taste of NY offerings including local wines and craft beverages and locally sourced ingredients in the new café area; and
  • Renovation of public restrooms.
This "after" image shows how OSI's acquisition of the land made it possible to shift the parking area out of the gorge.
This "after" image shows how OSI's acquisition of the land made it possible to shift the parking area out of the gorge.
Photo Credit: Erik Kulleseid, OSI

"Watkins Glen is a New York State treasure, featuring its beautiful state park, an internationally renowned race track and a vibrant downtown," said Governor Andrew Cuomo. " I congratulate Watkins Glen and its residents, businesses and leaders for working together with the state to bring these ideas to life as we usher in a new era for this Upstate gem."

"The project provides one of the state’s most scenic destinations with the beautiful and welcoming gateway it deserves,” said Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “I am grateful to Governor Cuomo for making this investment in Watkins Glen State Park, which will help to boost the region's economy and improve its quality of life."

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