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The pulse of parks: a look at who visits Fahnestock State Park

PUTNAM VALLEY, NY — August 18, 2015 — From its bucolic beach to scenic hikes and beyond, the word has gotten out about the many recreational offerings at popular Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park, located less than an hour north from New York City. Now, a new survey reveals the full extent of Fahnestock’s role as a tourism and economic driver in the Hudson River Valley, with half of all visitors traveling to the park from outside the immediate area.

The report issued by the Open Space Institute (OSI)’s Alliance for New York State Parks program, and funded from OSI’s Waletzky State Parks Fund and a grant from the Dyson Foundation, quantifies the impact of Fahnestock, which attracts 270,000 hikers, swimmers, campers, birders and anglers each year for an escape at beautiful Canopus Lake or a hike along the Appalachian Trail. Nearly half of Fahnestock’s visitors (45 percent) originate from the New York City metropolitan area, with 30 percent from the five boroughs or Long Island alone. 

The survey also captured the park’s role as an economic catalyst, with an estimated $14.5 million impact on the local and state economy. While the park’s numbers swell during the weekend, local visitors keep the park humming throughout the week, contributing to its popularity and economic impact.

“Fahnestock is a convenient ‘one-stop shop’ for outdoors adventure in the Hudson River Valley,” said Erik Kulleseid, executive director of OSI’s Alliance program. “The investments being made in Fahnestock by State Parks and its partners, such as those at beautiful Canopus Lake, are paying dividends as more and more people grow to love this beautiful place and develop a stake in its future.”

“This report truly shows that our state parks’ diverse visitors are helping to bring economic benefits to local communities,” said Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “Thanks to the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo and his NY Parks 2020 plan, our state has made huge progress in supporting places like Fahnestock so they can continue to give back to our community.”

The study, based on data derived from a survey of over 450 visitors and conducted over 23 days from July through September 2014, revealed that Fahnestock visitors contribute substantially to the economy. Between stops en route to and from the park for food and beverage, retail purchases and entertainment, Fahnestock’s total economic impact is estimated at $14.5 million annually on the local and state economy.

The study also captured the positive role of diversity at the park. Spanish-speaking visitors keep Fahnestock humming on weekends. On a given week, about half of all parkgoers were children or teens under 18, meaning Fahnestock especially appeals to active visitors.

The study also revealed that nearly nine in ten respondents reported frequenting a specific, favorite area such as Canopus Lake, the campgrounds or the trails. In an open-ended question, when asked what they liked about the park, park-goers revealed their appreciation of places like the lake or the park’s general scenic beauty.

Just an hour’s drive from Manhattan, Fahnestock is an easy escape for visitors from New York City. Through the years, thanks to OSI’s efforts in the area, the park has doubled in size since the early 1990s. Most recently, OSI’s Alliance for New York State Parks program has raised $1.2 million in private funds and grants towards revitalizing Fahnestock’s Canopus Lake visitor complex.

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