Not only were many of these upgrades necessary as a result of age and preservation of our resources, they were strategically done to encourage tourism and increase park attendance. This investment has paid off as park visits are up. Since 2011, state park attendance has increased by 23% with more than 70 million visits logged in 2017.
Parks ensure a place for families and friends to congregate where they can appreciate the area’s beauty and enjoy the outdoors together. These recent investments help ensure our parks will remain part of families’ traditions for generations to come. In most cases, a state park is within a short drive, especially in Upstate, and having these resources close to home helps improve our quality of life. The investments also provide additional benefits to the surrounding economy. For each $1 invested in state parks, economists estimate that there is a $5 cost benefit to the greater economy as more people travel to the areas surrounding the parks and support local businesses.
It takes more than state funding, however, to have a great park. Local volunteer groups and individuals play a big part in annual cleanup efforts, for example, with the annual I Love My Park day. This year, I Love My Park Day will be held on Saturday May 5. Last year more than 8,000 volunteers took part in more than 250 projects at 125 state parks, historic sites and public lands throughout the state. To become involved with this effort at a park nearby, register at www.ptny.org/ilovemypark/index.shtml or call (518) 434-1583.
In addition, ongoing state programs provide people discounted or free access to state parks year round that help improve access.
Visitors can attend state parks and pay the daily vehicle use fee which ranges from $6-$10. There are ways, however, to save money. The annual Empire Pass is $80. Three- or five-year passes are also available. The passes allow unlimited day use vehicle entry to most state parks and recreation facilities during the whole season. It is worth the investment if you and your loved ones visit the parks more than 8 times a year. For details visit https://parks.ny.gov/admission/empire-passport/.
Patriot Plan Benefit
Under the Patriot Plan Benefit, a service member who is currently serving on active duty is eligible for a free Empire Pass for use by his or her immediate family during deployment and/or his or her own use when returning home. This is also available to those in the New York National Guard. In order to receive this pass, families can complete an ordinary Empire Pass application, attach a copy of the military orders that show the soldier has been called to active duty and mail it to Empire Pass, Albany, NY 12238. Recipients must reapply each year. Park passes are mailed to those who qualify. For questions, call 518-474-0458.
Lifetime Liberty Pass
A new park pass known as Lifetime Liberty Pass enables disabled veterans to use state parks for free for life. To apply, visit https://parks.ny.gov/admission/lifetime-liberty-pass.aspx or call 518-474-2324.
Golden Park Pass
Seniors can receive free vehicle entry into state parks on non-holiday weekdays. All that is needed is a New York state driver’s license or non-driver state ID. Residents can show the ID at the gate. While most parks do participate, there are some exceptions so it is best to call ahead.
Access Pass for Disabled Residents
The Access Pass permits New York State residents with certain disabilities free or discounted use of state parks, historic sites and recreational facilities. There are strict guidelines which are listed on the application and a physician must certify the application. To download an application, visit https://parks.ny.gov/admission/access-pass/.
If you have any questions or comments regarding these or other state issues, please contact me. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by email at [email protected], or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also can find me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.