Friday, 12 July 2019 14:58

OP ED: Taking Advantage of New York's Natural Beauty During the Summer Months

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In recent years, the state has made significant investments in our state parks and communities.

Additional funding has helped improve playground equipment, entryways, beach areas, trails, and restroom facilities. Increased efforts to improve and preserve our parks stems from a statewide effort to encourage tourism and increase park attendance statewide. This long-term investment is paying off each summer as the number of park visits continue to rise. In 2018, an estimated 74 million people visited one of New York’s state parks, historic sites, campgrounds, or trails. This record-breaking number of visitors marked seven years of growth, equivalent to a 28% increase.

Parks are an excellent place for friends and families to spend time together outdoors and enjoy the beauty our state provides. Recent investments will ensure our parks are maintained for future generations to utilize and enjoy. Here in upstate New York, parks and trails are easily accessible for most families which improves our quality of life and allows us to spend time in the warm summer weather. Investing in local parks and tourism also yields massive benefits to our local economies. For every $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.

Our state parks are funded by the taxpayers, but volunteer groups and individuals also play a significant role in maintaining them. I Love My Park Day is an annual statewide effort to clean-up parks, historic sites and public lands. Earlier this year, over 8,000 volunteers showed up at 140 locations across the state to help, and the event was a huge success.

In addition, ongoing state programs provide people discounted or free access to state parks year round that help improve access.

Empire Pass

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 and 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 eight 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 this or any other state issue, please contact me. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185. You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.

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