Open Space Protection a Key Part of Governor Cuomo's Restore Mother Nature Bond Act to Fight Climate Change
Includes Major Expansion of Green Lakes State Park, Improvement of Ithaca Hiking Trail Along Cayuga Lake
Projects Include Onondaga, Tompkins and Delaware Counties
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the expansion of Green Lakes State Park, as part of several State Parks land protection projects that cover more than 760 acres in Central New York and the Southern Tier. The Governor has proposed a $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Environmental Bond Act to fund projects to protect our water resources and fish and wildlife habitats for future generations, and open space protection is a critical component of the Governor's strategy to fight the effects of climate change.
"This expansion of Green Lakes State Park will offer new opportunities for recreation and boost tourism in Upstate New York, while protecting environmentally significant lands," Governor Cuomo said. "Open space protection is a critical piece of the Restore Mother Nature Initiative, and with the Bond Act we will be able to pursue even more projects like this for land preservation and habitat restoration, and better protect our environment for future generations."
New York acquired the 160-acre Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities' Spirituality and Nature Center at Alverna Heights to be added to Green Lakes State Park in Onondaga County. The land will provide a significant buffer of open space for Central New York's most-visited State Park. In addition, Governor Cuomo announced projects in the Southern Tier adding 297 acres to Robert V. Riddell State Park and protecting more than 310 acres of land in Tompkins County from potential development, as well as extending the popular Black Diamond hiking trail near the City of Ithaca.
These land acquisitions provide significant conservation value and buffers in the area of four State Parks, as well as provide space that in the future can be used to provide amenities for the popular Black Diamond trail. Some of the land being acquired had been approved for a residential subdivision and now will become park land, remaining open space.
In Onondaga County, the 160 acres of open fields and forest of Alverna Heights are near the main entrance to Green Lakes State Park on Route 290. Acquisition of the parcels provides a buffer for the park's Rolling Hills campground, and adds to its Bird Conservation Area. The property also will help protect the park's unique ecology, including its striking meromictic lakes and the maple-basswood rich mesic forest.
Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Erik Kulleseid said, "Keeping these lands safe from development is crucial to preserving the rare natural beauty and ecology of Green Lakes State Park. I'm grateful to the Sisters for their excellent stewardship of the property. Their participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Habitat Incentive program brought back native grasses to 10 acres on the property and with it, the birds and wildlife that inhabit these grasslands. We thank them for partnering with New York State on this open space project, and to Governor Cuomo for his support in expanding and improving our park system."
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said, "This acquisition will help ensure that Green Lakes State Park remains the preeminent State Park in our region. The unique natural beauty of this park routinely draws a million visitors a year, making it an important part of our tourism industry. Now this land will be able to be enjoyed and appreciated for generations to come."
Assembly Member Al Stirpe said, "Our state parks are some of New York's most valued assets, giving us places to build lifelong memories and enjoy what nature has to offer. Green Lakes State Park is a treasured part of Central New York and the purchase of Alverna Heights adds even more to its beauty. By acquiring this piece of land, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is helping protect our invaluable natural resources for generations to come."
General Minister of the Sisters' Congregation Sister Barbara Jean Donovan said, "As Franciscan women, we committed to the preservation of God's creation, we are pleased that Alverna Heights will come under the care of New York. The land's future will be carefully planned for and the property will be well maintained."
The sisters will retain a presence on the property through a 10-year lease of the two residences on the property. Public access is limited to ensure the sisters' privacy and safety. State Parks will explore opportunities to expand its trail network on portions of the land.
State Parks acquired the Alverna Heights property with $1.2 million from the Environmental Protection Fund.
Along with the addition on the east side of the facility, Green Lakes State Park has added 420 acres in the last two years - growing the now 2,200-acre facility by nearly 25 percent.
State Parks is adding open space and expanding trail connections near several facilities in the Southern Tier, including:
- 297 acres added to Robert V. Riddell State. The addition to the Delaware County-side of the park buffers a heavily subdivided area near the park and provides room to expand trails.Now nearly 2,700 acres, the Susquehanna River Valley park offers an extensive trail network for bird-watching, snowshoeing and fishing
- 46.2 areas will be added to Robert H. Treman State Park south of Ithaca that will further a master plan to connect several state parks, Cornell University Natural Areas, and Finger Lakes Land Trust Preserves as a greenbelt. The addition also aims to protect water quality within Enfield Creek including popular recreational swimming at the park.
- Nearly 11 acres will be added to Buttermilk Falls State Park that will allow a future phase of the 8.4-mile Black Diamond Trail to extend a 3.7- mile connection between Robert H. Treman State Park and Buttermilk Falls State Park
- North of Ithaca, the state is partnering with the Finger Lakes Land Trust for the $92,000 purchase of 11.7 acres adjacent to the Black Diamond Trail that runs along Cayuga Lake and the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway. This addition will allow improved public access to the trail from Route 89, as well as for the future addition of trail amenities such as rest rooms, drinking water, and seating. This area is also part of Tompkins County's Greenbelt.
- On the eastern side of Cayuga Lake, the state has provided a $327,475 grant to the Finger Lakes Land Trust that will allow the not-for-profit conservation group to purchase a 243-acre parcel in the town of Lansing for use as a nature preserve with waterfalls and trails. This acquisition will protect views across the lake of Taughannock Falls State Park, as well as protect water quality in a lake that has experienced Harmful Algal Blooms.
The environmental bond act would provide funding for land acquisition to provide recreational opportunities, protect communities from flooding, and safeguard drinking water sources. New York's last environmental bond act was passed nearly a generation ago in 1996. Other examples of types of projects that can be funded through this new initiative may include:
- Freshwater and tidal wetland restoration to "put nature to work" filtering contaminants and nutrients.
- Riparian buffers to protect water bodies from nutrient runoff and sedimentation and prevent HABs.
- Fish hatchery investments and public access site improvements to elevate NY as the top state for recreational fishing.
- Measures to bolster resilience including voluntary property buy-outs, right-sizing culverts and bridges, removing obsolete and hazardous dams, and green infrastructure projects.
In addition, Governor Cuomo has proposed sustaining the Environmental Protection Fund for the fourth year in a row at a record high $300 million. Appropriations include $39 million for solid waste programs, $89 million for parks and recreation, $152 million for open space programs and $20 million for the climate change mitigation and adaptation program. He has also proposed an additional $500 million for clean water infrastructure, part of the state's unprecedented $3.5 billion commitment to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to clean water.
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails and boat launches, which are visited by 77 million people annually. A recent university study found that spending by State Parks and its visitors support $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.