Category Archives: Outdoors

Forever wild in the Finger Lakes

New York has a new state forest:

Sale of lands around picturesque Hemlock and Canadice lakes by the city of Rochester to New York state, a goal of conservationists for decades, is now complete, officials announced Thursday… “This is without a doubt the most important land acquisition project the state has undertaken outside of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks in more than a generation,” said Pete Grannis, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which will manage the new forest.

Already people are grumbling about why New York has $13 million to buy land at a time when our economy is so bad that Gov. Paterson feels the need to hold a “veto-thon” because he thinks the Legislature’s budget doesn’t recognize reality. I kind of wonder what the timing of this has to do with Rochester mayor Robert Duffy’s new relationship with Albany as Cuomo’s lieutenant governor candidate. (Nothing, I’m sure, but that was my first crazy thought…)

Long ago, York Staters published an ode to Hemlock and Canadice Lakes. It’s worth another read, if you are undecided over whether this was a good purchase or not.

State park update

What is happening at the closed state parks? It seems to depend on where you are and who you know…

A group of about a half dozen volunteers were asked to leave Wilson-Tuscarora State Park (east of Niagara Falls) by park police as they brought in mowers under the direction of Wilson town officials. (The Town of Wilson wants to take over the park, so it appears that park police don’t take kindly to grandstanding, maybe?)

The Buffalo News reports that several towns in WNY want to maintain their closed local parks, including Woodlawn Beach, Knox Farm and Joseph Davis parks.

Bowman Lake State Park is seeing a jump in reservations, possibly due to the closure of nearby Oquaga Creek and Hunts Pond parks. Bowman Lake is on the “secondary closing list.”

The Post-Standard notes that Clark Reservation is not “really” closed.

Kirsten Gillibrand wants Newtown Battlefield to become a national historic park. (This would be in addition to, not instead of, the state park that is there.)

The closure of Thacher State Park is becoming a political issue.

New York’s entire state parks system has been named to “America’s Most Endangered Historic Places” list this year.

Into the wild

Today, the original list of 55 state parks and historic sites slated for closure were officially shut. For a while it looked like the legislature was going to get its act together and “save” them for another year, but everyone in Albany is so busy trying to make each other look bad that the parks just fell through the cracks. As Norbrook points out, you might as well kiss some of these facilities goodbye.

While certain concerned parties such as Novisuccinea chittenangoensis may be relieved, some other New Yorkers are going to attempt to pretend that this all never happened and use the parks anyway:

At Knox Park In East Aurora, the park is technically closed but that didn’t stop park goers like Sue Guindon from showing up. What did she encounter? “Not a thing, peace, not a problem…no gates closed, a regular day. I was hoping for that, I don’t want anything but a peaceful walk in the park as I do every single day when I come here myself, my friends or with my family.” Guindon says she will not back down and plans to keep coming to the park.

A lot of people know back routes or unofficial entrances to the closed parks. (I know a discreet route into one of my favorites, and admit I am tempted.) How hard is the state going to enforce no-trespassing rules? When do the drug dealers start to show up?

Does privatization come next? A Republican state senator is now push-polling about that. But on Long Island they already have a savior in the form of Citibank, which is coming to the rescue and playing out exactly what I feared — the haves will have their parks, and the have-nots will just have to sneak in like animals.

Every government, no matter what way it gains power (via elections, or just brute force), has to engage in what are known as “legitimizing activities.” Every president, king or emperor since the beginning of civilization has eventually had to come up with bread and circuses, pleasure parks, and other ways of keeping the people happy within the system and in awe of their largesse and majesty. To the people, the failure to keep providing these perks contributed to a sense of “legitimacy fail.”

The park closures are of course not the most serious thing we’re facing. But it makes you wonder. If the entire legislature and the governor are this impotent that they could not stop this from actually happening, then their days of legitimacy as a government are that much closer to the end. When do the people who are still living in New York (and not fleeing elsewhere) just simply stop paying attention to them, or to their successors?

For Ms. Guindon, I guess the answer is “now.”

New York’s Deadliest Ex-State Parks

From the shores of Long Island to the mighty Niagara Falls, New York’s plethora of ex-state parks offer countless opportunities to escape from the bounds of gravity (briefly), experience exciting new adventures in agony, and become one with your natural environment (forever)! Wondrous new worlds of pain await you at…

Clark Reservation. If you’ve always wanted to go look for the caves, now you can! Best experienced after dusk after a long day of drinking with local guides, the cool, rushing sensation of discovering Jamesville Quarry is not unlike the feeling of biting into a York peppermint pattie… which is what you’ll also look like after they scrape you off the bottom. Clark Reservation’s trails are sure to bring you to the very edge of excitement – and beyond!

Old Erie Canal State Park. New York’s first dedicated play space for methheads offers peerless privacy in a peaceful rural setting for all your drug dealing needs- the only place you can dump the body AND the gun where no one will hear the splash. (No concrete ballast needed – just use one of the thousands of limestone blocks handily available in the park!)

John Boyd Thacher. If you’ve experienced all the joy that New York’s ex-state parks have to offer, but still aren’t satisfied, make John Boyd Thacher your final destination. It’s 3.2 seconds of vertical plunge you’ll remember for the next 3.2 seconds of your life!

(Okay, okay…

Gee, I thought I wasn’t going to have to resurrect this post from the Virtual Spike, but since the state can’t get its budget act together, I’m publishing the above as a public service… and as a way to get myself out of my curious blogging hiatus. And here I had wanted to come back when things had changed…)

State park admission hikes

The latest news on the parks situation is that car entrance fees will be raised at 28 of the most popular parks (including our own Green Lakes), and golf course fees will also be raised. The most interesting news is that, like many other states have done for a long time, New York will now charge higher camping and cottage rental fees for out-of-state residents. I was always kind of proud that NY didn’t have to do that, but times have changed.

BTW, it’s interesting to see which Upstate parks are considered “flagship parks” worthy of fee raises: Green Lakes, Letchworth, Fair Haven, Southwick, Westcott, Watkins Glen, Fort Niagara, Moreau Lake and Saratoga Spa.

I don’t know how statistics run on how many out-of-staters use New York campsites, as a percentage of total users. I do know that quite a few people who use the campsites regularly feel they have been a pretty good deal already, pricewise. I know I have always felt this way. In fact I’ve been surprised that they haven’t raised campsite fees more dramatically in the past few years. There are always people who will prefer to pay $30 a night for the privilege of being in a highly electrified, Wi-Fi’d private RV resort with pink flamingoes and swimming pools, but I’m not one of them. That said, I personally would accept a $3-4 campsite fee hike even for in-state residents… but it looks like just out-of-staters will now be asked to pay.

I do wonder where the new revenues are specifically going, though. I’d like these new fees to help the park staff do their jobs.