Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the completion of improvement projects at Southwick Beach State Park and Westcott Beach State Park, on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. The first major improvements to the popular beachfront parks in 50 years, upgrades at Southwick Beach feature a new bathhouse and concession building, as well as restored dunes and new "green" parking lots that enhance resiliency and protection of water quality. At Westcott Beach, eight new accessible cottages, with fully equipped kitchens and full bathrooms, were built on a bluff with a commanding view of the lake.
"Open space is essential to New Yorkers' health and well-being, especially during these stressful times, and we remain hard at work maintaining and improving our world-class state parks while enforcing COVID safety guidelines to protect their visitors," Governor Cuomo said. "The communities along Lake Ontario are still recovering from last year's record floods and these upgrades will help to increase visitation and improve resiliency while providing a much-needed boost to the local tourism industry."
Located in Jefferson County, Southwick Beach State Park has a 112-site campground and is the busiest day-use state park in the Thousand Islands Region, drawing more than 1.1 million visitors during the last decade. The recently completed improvements include:
- New concession kitchen and camp store;
- Public Gathering Space with outdoor fireplace, patio area, walkways and three rental pavilions;
- New showers, changing areas, and restroom space with ADA and family access;
- Laundry room for patron use;
- Games arcade;
- New entrance drive and sidewalk/bike path connection to campsites; and
- Lifeguard and first aid station.
The project also included several features to protect the park's natural resources: New parking lots have storm water systems, bio retention ponds, and a combination of standard asphalt pavement, porous pavement, reinforced grass paver parking, and overflow grass parking, all of which help filter pollutants from stormwater runoff and protect Lake Ontario's water quality. The restored and enhanced dunes will reduce erosion from high water events, as well as improve wildlife shoreline habitat. The dunes include a new wooden boardwalk and a day-use area with shade trees. Funding for the project came from the NY Parks 2020 initiative and a $1 million grant from the Environmental Facilities Corporation.
Located on Henderson Bay in Jefferson County, Westcott Beach includes a sandy beach, 168 campsites, a marina and more than three miles of hiking trails. The park's new cottage colony will be open late May through Columbus Day each year. Each cottage has a master bedroom on the ground floor with a queen size bed, an additional bedroom on the ground floor with two twin beds and a loft area containing three twin beds. Living areas have a sofa, chairs and a propane fireplace for heating during the spring and fall seasons. Views of Lake Ontario can be seen from the kitchen/living room and loft area through a full glass wall facing the lake. Exterior amenities include a patio with four Adirondack chairs, an accessible picnic table, fire ring and a grill for cooking. The $3.94 million project was funded through the NY Parks 2020 initiative.
Cottage reservations are expected to become available starting August 1 through Reserve America, which can be found online at https://www.reserveamerica.com/ or by calling (800) 456-2267. Bookings are expected to begin August 7.
New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "Thanks to Governor Cuomo's commitment to ensuring top-quality Park facilities, Southwick Beach and Westcott Beach are ready to welcome another generation of beach-goers who will be able to make their own memories in these beautiful places. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how much New Yorkers rely on their parks as places of refuge and relaxation."
New York State Environmental Facilities President and CEO Maureen Coleman said, "EFC is proud to have provided support for the green practices used in this important beachfront project along Lake Ontario. This project is yet another example of Governor Cuomo's commitment to protecting and enhancing New York State's treasured natural resources."
Senator Patty Ritchie said, "For so many families and individuals, summer means spending time at New York State Parks. The significant improvements at Westcott Beach and Southwick Beach State Parks will not only improve the experience for visitors, but help protect the environment as well. I was proud to have played a role in securing funding to make a portion of these upgrades possible, and know that through them, countless people will be able to get outdoors and enjoy our region's natural resources for many years to come."
Assemblyman Will Barclay said, "The new upgrades at Southwick Beach State Park and Westcott Beach State Park are welcome improvements that will provide visitors with a better experience. Investing $9.1 million into these facilities will enhance the parks' amenities and environment and help attract more visitors and outdoor enthusiasts looking to enjoy the natural beauty of Lake Ontario. It has been decades since projects like these have been completed here, and I'd like to congratulate everyone who made these upgrades a reality."
Jefferson County Board of Legislators Chairman Scott Gray said, "Tourism is an important component to the economic health of Jefferson Country and the beautiful New York State Parks along our lake and river enhance the ambiance of the North Country experience. I am grateful Governor Cuomo and New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulliseid understand the importance of maintaining and upgrading our parks to maximize their full potential for our residents and guest of Jefferson County."
Director of Tourism for the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council Corey Fram said, "New York continues to lead the way in smart, sustainable development of open spaces by improving amenities for users and incorporating environmentally friendly practices that allow future generations to enjoy these magnificent Lake Ontario campgrounds."
The Governor's NY Parks 2020 program is a multi-year commitment of $1 billion in private and public funding for State Parks to 2020. In addition, the Connect Kids to Parks program provides free day-use park entry to fourth-grade students and their families, and offers transportation grants to help students from underserved schools visit state parks and historic sites.
About NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails and boat launches, which were visited by a record 77 million people in 2019. A recent university study found that spending by State Parks and its visitors supports $5 billion in output and sales, 54,000 private-sector jobs and more than $2.8 billion in additional state GDP. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit parks.ny.gov, connect on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.