Study captures Bear Mountain's role as Hudson Valley tourist destination

BEAR MOUNTAIN, NY — November 12, 2015 — With miles of hiking trails, spectacular scenery, large picnic groves and plenty of family activities and events, Bear Mountain State Park is a well-loved escape conveniently located just an hour north of New York  City. A new visitor survey report issued by the Open Space Institute’s (OSI) Alliance for New York State Parks program captures the appeal of the park as a recreational destination for locals and city-dwellers alike, and underscores the vast diversity of the park’s visitors.

Spanning Orange and Rockland counties in New York’s lower Hudson River Valley, Bear Mountain State Park welcomes almost 2 million visitors each year. The report found that nearly 50 percent of all visitors to Bear Mountain originate from the New York City metropolitan area, with just over 20 percent making the trip from New Jersey and other states.

Also notable is the diversity of Bear Mountain’s visitors, with four out of ten respondents identifying as non-white—primarily Hispanic, but also African-American and Asian.

“The diversity of ethnicity, culture and language documented in this report will come as no surprise for those of us who frequent Bear Mountain,” said Erik Kulleseid, OSI Senior Vice President and executive director of its Alliance for New York State Parks program. “For decades this beautiful and historic park has been an inviting, family-friendly getaway for city-dwellers of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds.  This survey underscores how important these Hudson River parks are to the people of New York City, as well as those who view the parks as part of their communities.”

State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, “For more than a century, outdoor enthusiasts have flocked to Bear Mountain State Park and OSI’s report shows it still remains vital to a diverse mix of people from New York City and locally. Moreover, the report underscores the importance of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s strong efforts to renew the stewardship of our State Parks through his Parks 2020 Plan.”

The role of Bear Mountain as a destination is further underscored when considering the park as a local economic driver.  According to the survey, 75 percent of visitors purchase food and other supplies en route to the park. 

“Our state parks provide New Yorkers with the countless benefits of physical and mental wellness, recreational opportunities and educational enrichment. Our parks are also a major source of tourism and revenue, providing many local jobs and economic development,” said New York State Senator Jose M. Serrano (29th Senate District), who is Ranking Member of the committee overseeing New York’s state parks. “As often as we can, my family and I make the short trip up to Bear Mountain to enjoy hiking and swimming in the summer, along with sledding and ice skating in the winter. I encourage all New Yorkers to visit and enjoy their local state parks, and also take the opportunity to visit and explore the amazing state parks in other regions of our state.”

The study, funded through a grant from the Dyson Foundation and OSI’s own Waletzsky State Parks Legacy Fund, is based on a demographic study of 406 visitors over 23 days from July through September 2014.

When asked what drew them to the park, visitors mentioned the park’s convenience and its natural beauty. Hessian Lake, the Trailside Museum and Zoo, and hiking and mountain biking trails leading to the peak of Bear Mountain—with views that stretch out over four states and the Manhattan skyline—were all a draw for repeat visitors.

With regards to upgrades of the park, about half of visitors requested minor changes such as restroom upgrades, more grills and better signage. Notably, “increased programming” was not a popular response, indicating that visitors largely value the park as an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Less than an hour’s drive from the high rises of New York City, 5,000-acre Bear Mountain is an easy, year-round escape for city weekenders and local residents alike. The Palisades Interstate Parks Commission manages the park, which offers popular and unusual amenities such as a merry-go-round and skating rink.

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