NEW YORK, NY (Oct. 25, 2016)—This past spring, parks and environmental communities celebrated an historic expansion of New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). Now, two recent announcements highlight the real impact this EPF milestone is having on increasing public access to nature—particularly for people who can face barriers to outdoor exploration—the physically challenged and certain disadvantaged students.
Thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature the EPF grew to $300 million in 2016. This historic expansion translates into greater investment in cleaner water and air, park expansions and farmland protection, among many critically important programs. Improving the public’s access to parks and all that they offer are among the great achievements of the EPF.
“Every year, OSI and our many partners work together to make the case for greater investment in the EPF,” said Kim Elliman, OSI CEO and president. “It is gratifying to see how the EPF is making our state’s most spectacular natural landscapes more accessible to a fuller range of visitors and explorers.”
In just the last month two great initiatives were announced that underscore how the EPF is making it easier to get New Yorkers outdoors.
Black Rock Forest just south of Newburgh boasts some of the best hiking opportunities in the Hudson Highlands. Now, thanks to a $217,000 EPF grant, a new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible pathway was created at this popular old growth forest. This trail can be safely accessed by just about everyone—including people using wheelchairs or walkers, as well as families with young children and strollers.
“We are thrilled that more visitors will be able to enjoy the expansive trails that make up Black Rock Forest, thanks to the great new addition of the Visitor Access Pathway,” said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. “This is a great example of how the Environmental Protection Fund provides real recreational opportunities for New Yorkers.”
Improving park access is also at the heart of a new EPF-funded program offering grants to Title 1 schools to cover transportation costs associated with trips to a state park, environmental nature center or historic site. Title 1 schools serve children who historically had the least opportunity to reap the benefits of access to open space—students who are struggling academically and students from low-income backgrounds.
The $500,000 statewide transportation grant program is one part of State Parks’ “Connect Kids to Parks” program. Like the National Parks Service, New York State is offering free admission to state parks, historic sites and day-use areas operated by Department of Environmental Conservation for every fourth-grader in the state for 2017.