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NY Launches Online History of State Parks, Historic Sites


An interactive, online timeline titled ‘Blazing a Trail: A History of New York State Parks and Historic Sites’ in celebration of New York State Parks’ Centennial was launched by the state over the weekend. Organized by eight chronological eras, the first two installments of the timeline are available here, with subsequent eras launching throughout 2024.

‘Blazing A Trail’ employs photographs, illustrations, paintings, documents, archival footage, maps and narrative to tell the story of the development of the New York State Parks system. The timeline experience introduces important figures in the agency’s history and examines the social and political context of each era of development. The first two eras are currently live: “Laying the Foundation: 1850-1924” and “Adopting The Park Plan: 1924-1929.”

In these eras, users will learn about the drive to conserve natural spaces during the rapid development of the late 1800s and preserve the nation’s past as the country celebrated its first century, and explore how the focus of the early parks movement shifted from preservation to recreation at the dawn of the 20th century. They will encounter leaders such as Gov. Alfred Smith, whose upbringing in New York City’s tenements instilled a lifelong drive to improve the lives of the urban poor and who was influential in the system’s creation, and philanthropists such as Robert and Laura Treman, William Pryor Letchworth, and John Boyd and Emma Treadwell Thacher, who purchased and donated land and whose names are now enshrined in the parks created on their donated lands. Each era includes the individual histories of the parks and sites added in the timeframe.

Additional eras launching throughout the year will cover the rise of the automobile, the influence of the Great Depression and Civilian Conservation Corps on Parks, the development of the system under the post-World War II Rockefeller administration, the creation of the modern Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), efforts to expand the agency’s diverse portfolio of parks, and more. Future eras include 1930-1945, 1945-1959, 1960-1971, 1972-1999, 2000-Today, and Tomorrow and Beyond

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