Camps Created to Serve Children and Underserved Communities for Generations Receiving Much Needed Infrastructure and Recreational Improvements
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York State is investing $14 million to revitalize the nation's first and oldest outdoor summer group camps at Harriman State Parks. Originally constructed in 1913, these 37 outdoor group camp facilities were built to provide children from underserved communities with a place to enjoy and experience the outdoors, but have fallen into disrepair following many decades of deterioration. Thanks to funding made available through Governor Cuomo's NY Parks 2020 initiative, long overdue infrastructure and recreational improvements can now be completed.
"The Harriman Group Camps have long been a place where some of our youngest New Yorkers from underserved communities are able to connect with nature for the very first time," Governor Cuomo said. "This funding will allow these camps to make the upgrades necessary to ensure future generations can share this great part of New York's heritage."
The $14 million in NY Parks 2020 funding will support critical infrastructure improvements such as water supply restoration, new and improved utilities, building and roof repairs, roadways and trail reconstruction, and modernization of the wastewater treatment systems. Additionally, several new docks will be installed to reinvigorate and reintroduce popular camp activities such as swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking.
Each camp consists of a small campus of cabins, tent platforms, dining halls, recreation buildings, comfort and waterfront facilities – all located on lakes scattered throughout Harriman State Park. Since the creation of the camps in 1913, the sites have hosted more than 500 summer camps and welcomed millions of visitors. In 2015 more than 37,000 visited the Harriman Group Camps and spent more than 150,000 days using the facilities. The camps continue to serve children in underserved areas. In 2015 more than 7,500 homeless children experienced the outdoor retreat each spending five full days at the camp, exploring the outdoors and learning about nature.
State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, "These summer group camps are integral to our history and were created with the idea of offering outdoor opportunities to many communities where nature isn’t readily accessible. Thanks to Governor Cuomo and his investment through NY Parks 2020 we are restoring these facilities so that we can better carry on this tradition. We are focusing our efforts on the restoration of the basic infrastructure so that organizations and partners like the Appalachian Mountain Club have a foundation to build upon so that they can invite thousands to utilize these camps and enjoy them as they were meant to be enjoyed."
New York State Parks and the Palisades Interstate Parks Commission support the basic infrastructure and lease the camps to various private partners who operate, provide transportation, care for the needs of the campers and in some instances provide private funding to improve camp infrastructure.
Palisades Interstate Parks Commission Executive Director James Hall said, "Over the decades numerous organizations have relied on the Harriman Group Camps to connect to nature and enjoy all that it provides. These camps are still heavily used today and thanks to Governor Cuomo and this continued investment they will better serve those who use the camps."
The rehabilitation of the infrastructure is encouraging public-private partnerships, as demonstrated by the Appalachian Mountain Club's (AMC) recently opened Harriman Outdoor Center, a leased group camp overlooking Breakneck Pond that underwent an additional $1.5 million restoration. AMC provided the funds and completely rehabilitated the exteriors and interiors to numerous cabins and group lodges, a dining hall, and a camp office, and additionally constructed a new open-aired outdoor pavilion to retain the natural, wild character of the camp. The dock and swimming crib were also restored. The renewed camp is now open to the public and large groups, such as scouting, school, faith-based, and youth groups, as well as family reunions and corporate outings, and will host a variety of outdoor programs.
Appalachian Mountain Club President and CEO John D. Judge said, "The Appalachian Mountain Club is proud to restore the long tradition of lodging, camping, and youth programs at Breakneck Pond, and honored to have the Palisades Interstate Park Commission and New York State Parks pass the torch to us. Our significant investment in AMC Harriman Outdoor Center speaks to the strength of partnerships in fulfilling the NY Parks 2020 revitalization plan, and the resulting benefits for so many, including our own commitment to getting more adults, families, and urban youth outdoors in the Greater New York City area. We look forward to being part of the incredible network of public recreational resources at Harriman State Park."
Senator William J. Larkin, Jr. said, "This $14 million is essential to the future of the Historic Harriman Group Camps. The Harriman State Parks has been an appropriate host to these camps and has been in need of these critical infrastructure improvements, particularly water supply restoration. I am pleased that this funding has been secured and appreciate our local officials bringing this worthwhile project to our attention. Cooperation and teamwork always produce positive results and I was proud to work with Governor Cuomo on securing this funding."
Senator David Carlucci said, "It was an honor to join State Parks Commissioner, Rose Harvey and Appalachian Mountain Club President and CEO, John D. Judge announcing the revitalization of the Harriman Summer Group Camps. This will allow the park to be enjoyed by future generations of New Yorkers who want to experience the natural beauty of the Lower Hudson Valley. Not only will our beloved state parks continue to grow, but we show once again that New York is a leader in environmental preservation. I thank everyone who volunteered and worked together to make this project a reality. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the New York State Legislature to advocate for our state parks."
Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski said, "As a frequent visitor to my local parks, I know firsthand the beauty of Rockland's own Harriman State Park. With Governor Cuomo's leadership we have finally been able to provide the capital funding necessary to ensure our parks continue to thrive and provide recreational opportunities for our residents."
In 1913 the Palisades Interstate Park Commission built the Harriman Group Camps under the mission to serve children living in cities and did not have transportation to an outdoor experience. The Harriman Group Camps became the model upon which all other group camping in the nation was built. The Camps led to the creation of the Nations’ first nature trails and environmental education programs designed to teach disadvantaged urban youth about the outdoors and instilling in them a lifelong sense of wonder for the outdoors, for many it was their first outdoor experience. Today, Harriman State Park is home to 23 group camp facilities that are utilized specifically for children and another 14 camps serving families or group related activities.
Harriman State Park is located on 52,000 acres and is the second largest New York state park welcoming more than 3 million visitors annually. Located in Rockland and Orange counties the parks hosts 31 lakes and reservoirs, 200 miles of hiking trails, two swimming beaches, two public camping areas, miles of streams and scenic roads, and scores of wildlife species, vistas and vantage points.
New York State is improving and expanding access to outdoor recreation. The Governor’s NY Parks 2020 is a multi-year commitment to leverage $900 million in private and public funding through 2020. This year New York State is providing free entry for 4th grade students and their families to all state parks and historic sites through acceptance of the National Park Service’s “Every-Kid-in-a-Park” Pass. This summer a new program will be implemented and provide free/low-cost transportation grants to allow students from Title 1 schools to experience state parks and historic sites.