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OSI’s Erik Kulleseid Appointed New York State Parks Commissioner

Albany, NY (Jan. 4, 2019)—Governor Andrew Cuomo today nominated the Open Space Institute’s Erik Kulleseid as the next Commissioner of New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.  Since 2010, Kulleseid has served as a Senior Vice President at OSI, building its Parks and Policy Program, originally known as the Alliance for New York State Parks.

“This is a proud day for OSI and a terrific day for those who love New York’s great state parks,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “We are grateful for all that Erik brought to OSI: from the Parks’ program expansion and its tremendous success, to his leadership, creativity and enthusiasm. OSI is a better, stronger organization for his time here. As Governor Cuomo continues his historic commitment to rejuvenating the state park system, Erik Kulleseid is a terrific choice to successfully lead the agency.”

Erik Kulleseid speaking at the Opening of Thacher Park Center at John Boyd Thacher State Park
Erik Kulleseid speaking at the Opening of Thacher Park Center at John Boyd Thacher State Park
Photo Credit: Mike Groll

Founded by Kulleseid and former State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash, with the leading support of New York State Council of Parks Chair Lucy R. Waletzky, the Open Space Institute’s (OSI) Parks initiative aims to build support for New York parks, integrate private funding raising into park improvement projects, and enhance the visitor experience at New York’s exceptional parks and protected areas.

 “I am honored to have been invited by Governor Cuomo to take the helm at the Office of Parks, to help him continue and expand his extraordinary park legacy,” said Kulleseid. “That being said, my departure is bittersweet. Having the opportunity to build the Parks program at the Open Space Institute has been the most rewarding stretch of my career to date, and I am grateful to the support of the board and my colleagues for adding park and public access improvements to OSI’s already powerful portfolio of work.”

During his tenure at OSI, Kulleseid secured $30 million in private and public funds to support state park improvements and expand recreational access to protected land.  Over the past seven years, he raised funds and managed projects for the:

  • Jones Beach State Park Revitalization Plan that informed Governor Cuomo’s $65 million commitment to the park;
  • Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park, raising $3.3 million to supplement NY Works capital;
  • Canopus Beach/Winter Park Complex at Fahnestock State Park, raising $1.25 million to overhaul the public facility;
  • Thacher Park Center, raising $800,000 and building interpretive exhibits, orientation kiosks and interior finishes;
  • upgrades to the cultural center at Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park in Harlem, raising $1.2 million, including a $1 million naming gift from Robert F. Smith;
  • transformation of Minnewaska State Park Preserve with 10 miles of carriage road restoration completed and the creation of the Minnewaska Visitor Center in process, to be completed in partnership with State Parks in 2020; and
  • creation of the River-to-Ridge Trail in New Paltz.  The six-mile loop trail traverses land conserved by OSI, connecting the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail/Empire State Trail to 90 miles of trails and carriage roads that lace the Shawangunk Ridge.

In addition to the capital improvement projects, under Kulleseid’s leadership, OSI also produced the Pulse of the Parks series of park visitor demographic studies. Reports were completed for Jones Beach State Park, Harriman State Park, Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, Fahnestock State Park, Bear Mountain State Park, Minnewaska State Park Preserve, and Sunken Meadow State Park.

Prior to his eight years at OSI, Kulleseid served as Deputy Commissioner for Open Space Protection at NYS Parks (2007-2010) where he led the agency’s team in the creation of the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park. Prior to his time at the agency, Kulleseid was the New York State Program Director for the Trust for Public Land (1994-2007), where he negotiated the acquisition of East River State Park in Brooklyn.

OSI has had a long and highly successful connection with New York State Parks, having protected land that accounts for a full 10 percent of the state’s parkland.  Over the past forty years, OSI has doubled the size of Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Fahnestock State Park, Moreau Lake State Park and Thacher State Park. OSI has also secured critical buffer additions at state parks throughout the Hudson Valley and played a leading role in the creation of Sterling Forest State Park.

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