NY Lobby Days: Encouraging Support for Trail Lands

February 06, 2017
Staff
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

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NY Lobby Days: Encouraging Support for Trail Lands
Looking over the Catskills on a hike to Hunter Mountain. Photo by Jeff Senterman.

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Trail Conference staff and volunteers will be meeting with New York State representatives about the importance of trails and trail lands.

Our voices are one of the most powerful tools we have in ensuring trail lands remain protected, open, and safe for all people to access. That’s why Trail Conference staff and volunteers are heading to Albany on several days over the next month to speak with elected officials about the importance of connecting people with nature. This year, we’ll be focusing on the following issues:

February 7: Catskill Park Awareness Day

As a member of the Catskill Park Coalition, the Trail Conference will ask state representatives to support a $10 million “Catskills Package” derived from funding sources that include the Department of Environmental Conservation Aid to Localities budget and the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). This funding would directly impact our ability to improve the trail experience in the Catskills through support of our Trail & Summit Stewards Program and our work as managers of the Catskill Conservation Corps.

February 14: EPF Day

In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a $300 million appropriation for the 2017 Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), continuing the historic funding level he established for the EPF last year. The EPF has directly supported the Trail Conference by providing funding for the rehabilitation of trails on Bear Mountain, including the original section of the Appalachian Trail, as part of the iconic Bear Mountain Trails Project. It funds the Lower Hudson Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM), for which the Trail Conference serves as the host organization. The EPF is an annual avenue of support for Trail Conference projects, and we will ask representatives to back its full funding.

March 2: Empire State Trail Advocacy Day

In January, Governor Cuomo announced his commitment to completing and connecting the Empire State Trail. This 750-mile multi-use trail will connect New York City with the Canadian Border via the Hudson River Greenway and Champlain Canalway Trails and Albany with Buffalo via the Erie Canalway Trail. The Empire State Trail will act as a spine connecting many Trail Conference-maintained trails through Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, and Columbia counties—and beyond.

The Trail Conference is an active participant in the New York State Greenway Gap Analysis initiative out of Albany to help identify existing trails, planned trail projects, proposed trails, and missing gaps. The Greenway has been adopted by the Empire State Trail as a working framework upon which to build a fully connected Greenway Trail from Battery Park in Manhattan to the Adirondacks. Currently, it is approximately 50 percent complete. The Trail Conference will ask representatives to support the completion of the Greenway and Empire State Trail and the increased access it will bring to our trails.

March 13: Park Advocacy Day

The Trail Conference supports the continued revitalization of the New York State park system, home to a significant number of trails that we maintain and monitor for invasive species. We will meet with representatives to stress the importance of funding for state parks, particularly the operating resources that keep our parks open. Inadequate staffing of maintenance crews and forest rangers affects park accessibility and visitor safety. It is a perennial that we will continue to raise.

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