Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that construction is underway for a new $6.1 million visitor center at the Minnewaska State Park Preserve on the Shawangunk Ridge. The public-private project with the Open Space Institute will create a new 5,000 square-foot facility that features public amenities and classroom space, exhibits and programming to educate visitors on the park's natural and recreational features. The new visitor center is part of a $28.2 million public-private investment in Minnewaska State Park Preserve under Governor Cuomo's NY Parks 2020 initiative, which includes $21.2 million in state funding.
"New York is home to world-class parks and recreational activities that attract tourists from all across the globe," Governor Cuomo said. "This new visitor center will provide much-needed amenities and new learning experiences to the thousands of tourists who come to the Minnewaska State Park every year, helping to boost tourism across the entire Hudson Valley region."
One of the key features of the visitor center will be restrooms and public drinking water, items that topped a 2014 survey of visitor concerns conducted by OSI. Located 90 minutes north of Manhattan, the park draws nearly 500,000 visitors annually.
The visitor center is being primarily funded by $3.1 million from the NY Parks 2020 Initiative. As part of the partnership, OSI has also raised $2.5 million and is launching a public campaign to raise the final $500,000 toward the project. The funds are contributing to the building design, construction, state-of-the-art exhibits and other upgrades and features.
OSI has also spearheaded the restoration of 4.5 miles of the park's Smiley Carriage Road, a popular destination for hikers, bikers, horseback riders and cross-country skiers. The Smiley Carriage Road reopened this fall after a $1.9 million restoration project, completed with support from the Butler Conservation Fund and the Environmental Protection Fund.
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "These improvements will make a visit to Minnewaska an even better experience, help highlight the recreational assets the park has to offer and attract even more visitors to enjoy this beautiful natural resource."
Kim Elliman, OSI's president and CEO, said, "OSI's commitment to the new visitor center and the restoration of the Smiley Carriage Road, builds on decades of work to protect the spectacular Minnewaska landscape and make it more accessible and enjoyable for the public. Over the years, we have proudly restored more than 12 miles of carriage roads and doubled the park's size through the addition of more than 12,000 acres, including the 2014 addition of the Sam's Point Preserve."
The new visitor center is part of a $28.2 million public-private investment in Minnewaska State Park Preserve under Governor Cuomo's NY Parks 2020 initiative, which includes $21.2 million in state funding. The project includes renovating over 21 miles of carriage roads, creating the Shawangunk Gateway campground, reconfiguring the main entrance on Route 44/55 to relieve traffic backups, improving parking areas, adding new walkways, installing public drinking water to the area, installing storm water and sewer management infrastructure, undergrounding utilities, landscaping, renovating the park roadway, new self-composting restrooms and other site improvements.
The Park Preserve is located at the top of a 2,000-foot rocky escarpment and includes 35 miles of stone dust carriage roads, 50 miles of trails and four pristine "sky lakes," as well as a rare dwarf pitch pine ecosystem in the Sam's Point Area.
Senator Jen Metzger said, "Minnewaska State Park is one of the most spectacular parks in New York State, and one of my favorite places to bike, hike, and swim. The new visitor's center will attract more visitors to the park and to Ulster County, and educate them about the incredible natural bounty in the region, deepening appreciation of all we have to offer and bringing more tourism dollars into the local economy. I am very pleased to sponsor a capital grant to help fund this worthy project, and want to express my appreciation to the Open Space Institute and the many partners that are making the new visitor's center possible."
Assembly member Kevin Cahill said, "Our area is blessed with a world class asset in the Minnewaska State Park Preserve. With more than 500,000 annual guests, the scenic landscape demonstrates its natural beauty through its iconic white cliffs, sky lakes and 25 miles of carriage roads. The construction of a new Visitor Center and accompanying facilities will enhance this attraction, making it a destination to enjoy a day-long stay for both visitors and residents alike. As a long-time advocate for preserving and protecting our natural environment and in particular for this newest feature, I am proud to have worked with many local advocates, Senator Jen Metzger and Governor Cuomo to secure state funding needed to support this valuable resource in our community."
Assembly Member Brian Miller said, "The new visitors center at Minnewaska State Park will help draw even more visitors to explore and experience the beauty of the Shawangunk Ridge. This is an important community asset for the residents of Ulster County. The new facilities, along with the restored carriage roads, improved traffic flow, creation of the Shawangunk Gateway Campground and other infrastructure and landscape improvements, will ensure the preserve remains a valuable source of eco-tourism for many years to come. I would like to thank the governor and the Open Space Institute for their leadership on this public-private investment."
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said, "I am thrilled at the amazing support that has gone into enhancing and restoring the visitor experience at Minnewaska State Park. The new visitor center will be an asset to the residents of Ulster County and help expand our local tourism industry along with continuing to bolster Minnewaska's reputation as one of the region's treasured recreational assets. I thank Governor Andrew Cuomo for his continued commitment to recreation and Ulster County."
Governor's NY Parks 2020 is a multi-year commitment to revitalize state parks and includes $110 million for improvement projects in the 2019-20 Executive Budget.
State Parks oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which were visited by a record 74 million people last year. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit www.parks.ny.gov, connect with us on Facebook, or follow on Instagram and Twitter.