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State Council on Parks Established 100 Years Ago Today


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New York is celebrating the centennial of the State Council of Parks establishment on April 18, 1924. Landmarks across the state will be illuminated in Parks green and centennial gold and a special centennial flag will be raised at parks and historic sites across the state to commemorate the day.

“Our State Parks and Historic Sites system is a treasure for New Yorkers and visitors alike, and today we celebrate 100 years of memories,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “The system we have today started with visionary leadership, and it has grown over the decades to encompass more than 250 properties covering 360,000 acres of land. As Governor, I will continue this legacy as we honor the history of our parks today and throughout the year.”

New York’s modern State Parks and Historic Sites system was created when Governor Alfred E. Smith and the State Legislature established the New York State Council of Parks on April 18, 1924. Creation of the Council built on state actions begun in the late 19th Century to protect places of natural significance, establish the Adirondack and Catskill forest preserves, create the Palisades Interstate Park Commission by the New York and New Jersey legislatures in 1900, and form the Reservation on the St. Lawrence, which today includes many state parks in the Thousand Islands Region.

In 1970, state legislation that created the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation also upgraded the former Division of Parks into an independent agency, known as the New York State Office of Parks and Recreation. Further legislation in 1972 gave the agency direct control of New York’s park lands, with the State Council of Parks and regional commissions retaining an advisory management role. The agency’s name was updated in 1981 to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to reflect the agency’s mission to protect New York’s historic heritage.

On Thursday, Commissioner Pro Tempore Simons marked the occasion by raising a State Parks centennial flag at Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site in Newburgh and attending a lighting ceremony at Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs.  

Other lighting events will be held today at:

  • One World Trade Center in Manhattan  
  • Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge in South Nyack 
  • Kosciuszko Bridge in Brooklyn 
  • H. Carl McCall SUNY Building in Albany 
  • State Education Building in Albany 
  • Alfred E. Smith State Office Building in Albany 
  • Empire State Plaza in Albany 
  • State Fairgrounds Main Gate and Exposition Center in Syracuse 
  • Niagara Falls State Park  
  • Albany International Airport Gateway  
  • Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Long Island Railroad East End Gateway at Penn Station in Manhattan 
  • Fairport Lift Bridge over the Erie Canal  
  • Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station  
  • Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park in Poughkeepsie 
  • Olana State Historic Site in Hudson 
  • Staatsburgh State Historic Site 
  • Lorenzo State Historic Site in Cazenovia 
  • Letchworth State Park in Castile 
  • Robert Moses State Park in Babylon 
  • Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh 
  • Fort Ontario State Historic Site in Oswego

Parks and Trails New York Executive Director Paul Steely White said, “Thank you, Governor Hochul, for putting parks in the spotlight. It’s a powerful representation of the actual investments being made to ensure that everyone has access to awe, adventure, wellness and discovery. As my teenager says, ‘Parks are lit!’”

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “We join Governor Hochul and all New Yorkers in celebrating this incredible milestone. For the last century, New York has led the nation in creating an unparalleled state park system that continues to play a vital role in providing New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds with affordable and inspiring outdoor opportunities. Scenic Hudson’s partnership with the state and others has allowed us to help create or enhance one-of-a-kind destinations, including Sojourner Truth State Park, Walkway Over the Hudson, Franny Reese State Park and Olana State Historic Site. We look forward to building on this legacy with Governor Hochul and the State Parks team to create innovative ways to connect people with nature and each other.”

Open Space Institute’s Chief Conservation and Policy Officer Kathy Moser said, “The Open Space Institute is honored to join our partners in New York State to protect, enhance, and expand our incomparable State Parks. Over the last 50 years, OSI has added nearly 40,000 acres to our State Park system – more than ten percent of the total acreage – as well as numerous other initiatives to make our parks more welcoming and accessible for all. Protection of our state’s abundant natural beauty and cultural heritage is a gift for people today and countless future generations. We could not be more proud to join with Governor Hochul and New York State Parks to celebrate the Centennial Celebration, and we look forward to the next 100 years.”

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