Repair of Dam Infrastructure, New Trails, Northern Pond Clean Up Are Latest Projects to Complete the Transformation of the Park
Measures Mitigate Flood Risk and Support Climate Resilience Amidst High-Hazard Dam in the Region
Photos Available Here
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the completion of a $47 million multi-year project at Hempstead Lake State Park on Long Island. The final work included two miles of new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant stone dust and bridle trails, an observation deck, improvements to the park's Northern Ponds to mitigate flood risk and reduce pollution, and rehabilitation of the 150-year-old Hempstead Lake Dam. These vital infrastructure improvements will help transform the park's offerings to the public while also making it more climate-change resilient.
"The renewed infrastructure at Hempstead Lake State Park underscores New York's commitment to climate resilience and demonstrates our focus to protect communities most vulnerable to the increase of extreme weather events," Governor Hochul said. "This multi-year project expands recreational opportunities, protects our environment and supports climate resiliency making the surrounding community safer, and I'm proud to celebrate its completion."
The final phase of the overall $47 million improvement plan upgraded the park's 144-acre Northern Ponds complex, with nearly $17 million in major improvements to mitigate flood risk on the Mill River, reduce pollution entering Hewlett Bay, and improve recreational trails. As one of the largest wetland projects ever completed by New York State Parks, the construction of eight acres of emergent wetlands now allows runoff from Southern State Parkway to slowly flow through to filter and purify the water before it enters Northeast Pond.
Restoration of the Northwest Pond dam was also completed to maintain the existing water levels that have been creating an enhanced and diverse habitat since 2012, when Superstorm Sandy breached the dam. Additional work included a new Eagle Avenue parking lot to serve as a trailhead gateway entrance, an observation deck overlooking Northeast Pond, removal of invasive species with replanting of native species to support enhanced plant and animal biodiversity, and systems to collect floating debris from entering the ponds area from surrounding highly urbanized neighborhoods. Over 100 tons of some decades-old trash and debris coming down the Mill Creek from upstream was hand removed from the entire Northern Ponds complex over the course of one year.
Trail improvements include a new 10-foot wide stone dust greenway trail to provide a continuous north-to-south trail system through the park, as well as a new eight-foot wide stone dust wetland trail and two new pedestrian bridges that will accommodate emergency and maintenance vehicles.
New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "The culmination of these vital infrastructure projects will help make the Hempstead Lake State Park and surrounding communities safer and more resilient to future storms, while improving access to outdoor recreation in the community. These fortification efforts will help ensure the structural integrity of the dam and continues our exceptional work to improve Hempstead Lake State Park and make it more welcoming to visitors."
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "Building resilient communities requires strategic investments that protect life and property, and that strengthen residents' connections to their natural environment. Through the award-winning Living with the Bay initiative and our partnership with New York State Parks, those living in the Mill River watershed are more protected from flooding, have cleaner water, and have easier access to its natural resources."
State Senator Kevin Thomas said, "The completion of the Hempstead Lake State Park renovations mark a significant step in the transformation of the park, ensuring it remains a vibrant open space for residents and visitors to enjoy. I proudly supported these investments and look forward to seeing the positive impacts on the environment and our quality of life. I thank Governor Hochul for prioritizing the health and safety of Long Islanders and pushing for a greener, cleaner and more climate resilient region."
Assemblymember Taylor Darling said, "We want everyone to enjoy our New York State Parks, especially those in District 18, the addition of new and better accessible trail ways open up the opportunity for all New Yorkers to enjoy the gorgeous trails, lake, and wildlife that Hempstead Lake State Park offers. As a member of the Committee on People with Disabilities, improving accessibility is incredibly important to me. The additional improvements to the park's infrastructure will put Hempstead Lake State Park in a position of resilience against climate change as we continue to fight for a cleaner, greener New York by taking care of our incredible state parks. Thank you Governor Hochul and all involvedthis is a tremendous accomplishment."
State Council of Parks Chair Bryan Erwin said, "There is no better week to celebrate the completion of almost 10 years of investments in Hempstead Lake State Park than the beginning of summer. These investments will ensure that Hempstead will be climate-resistant while at the same time be a welcoming haven for the surrounding communities."
Nassau County Legislator Siela A. Bynoe said, "Through its multiyear investment, New York State has safeguarded the natural treasures contained within Hempstead Lake State Park and made them accessible for every resident in the surrounding communities to enjoy. We are very thankful that Governor Hochul spearheaded a collaborative approach that brought community leaders, stakeholders, and elected officials from all levels of government together so that they could contribute their expertise and insights to this regionally significant endeavor."
Village of Rockville Centre Mayor Francis X. Murray said, "For years Hempstead Lake State Park has been a tremendous venue for our residents. Whether it is fishing, hiking, tennis, pickleball, ball fields, or a day out enjoying all that nature has to offer, Hempstead Lake State Park has checked all the boxes. The $47 million dollar improvements to the large park will ensure that this unique facility will be available for generations to come. The combined effort of all levels of government to bring this about is what residents deserve from their elected leaders."
Village of Hempstead Mayor Waylyn Hobbs Jr. said, "We are thrilled about Gov. Hochul's announcement regarding completing the $47 million project at Hempstead Lake State Park. This funding has given us a new entrance to the park and brings new life and sustainability to this beloved area. Further, we are pleased with the funding this project allowed for our workforce development. We thank Governor Hochul for her leadership."
Town of Hempstead Deputy Supervisor Dorothy Goosby said, "Our parks are some of our greatest resources for relaxation, restoration, and connecting with our families. I am happy that the improvement project has been completed; it was worth the wait. Thanks to Governor Hochul's leadership, the Hempstead Lake State Park has truly been transformed and has emerged as a beautiful location that our communities will enjoy for years to come."
Additionally, $4 million in structural improvements to stabilize the Hempstead Lake Dam, built in 1873 and the only high-hazard dam on Long Island, are now completed, as are repairs of the stone face of the dam to comply with regulations from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The project restored the dam's operational infrastructure to improve safety and help maintain water levels that support the habitat and ecosystems in and around the park's waterbodies.
Renovations to the Hempstead Lake gatehouse and South Pond inlet house - which share a newly repaired and restored 800-feet underground pipe arch culvert - have equipped the Hempstead Lake facility with new operable sluice gates that will allow park staff to control lake levels prior to and during storms. New water-level monitoring and lake temperature gauge equipment was also installed at the gatehouse to provide information to assess seasonal and long-term changes in lake conditions and real-time data to better manage stormwater storage capacity at Hempstead Lake. This will also enable long-term benchmarks against which future hydrologic changes could be compared.
The $47 million transformation of Hempstead Lake State Park was supported by a $35 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant and $12 million in Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) capital funds. This project is the result of a partnership involving State Parks, the Office of Resilient Homes and Communities, HUD, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is part of RHC's $125 million 'Living with the Bay' initiative to increase the resiliency of Nassau County communities along Mill River and around South Shore bays.
In 2021, Hempstead Lake State Park's $8.3 million Environmental Education and Resiliency Center was completed. The 8,000-square-foot center offers hands-on learning on the topics of storm resiliency and environmental management; provides space for community outreach; and serves as an emergency coordination center during disaster response.
Hempstead Lake State Park is a 737-acre multiuse facility that includes 18 tennis courts, six pickleball courts (with an additional four pickleball courts added to two hard surface tennis courts), children's playgrounds, basketball courts, softball field, bridle trails for horseback riding, biking and hiking trails, shaded picnic areas, a beautiful observation deck overlooking Hempstead Lake, and a historic hand-carved wooden carousel. There are also three bodies of freshwater that are accessible for fishing - Hempstead Lake, McDonald Pond, and South Pond. The 167-acre Hempstead Lake is the largest freshwater lake on Long Island.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which saw a record 79.5 million visits in 2022. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518.474.0456. Also, connect on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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