With the Largest U.S. Park in the Lower 48 and Vast Areas Where Only Stars Light the Night,

New York State Has a Long Tradition of Environmentalism

What better place to celebrate Earth Day than somewhere with no light pollution, no building towering over the forest canopy, no cell phone towers or fast food restaurants, and not much that moves faster than a horse? Head for New York State's Amish Trail and that's just what you'll find. And that's just one of the many pristine, frozen-in-time treasures of New York State.

There are huge stretches of land where you can drive for hours and never pass a billboard or strip mall, idyllic islands where you'll feel suspended in time, and vast wilderness areas where you can't help but connect with nature. In fact, Adirondack Park, with more than 6.2 million acres, is the largest park outside of Alaska, bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined.

Many people find it hard to believe that so much land could remain undeveloped so close to New York City, but the reason is remarkably simple; a "forever wild" amendment to the N.Y. State Constitution ratified in 1894 mandated that state-owned and acquired forest preserve lands be "forever kept as wild forest lands." Amazingly, this was enacted almost a century before the first Earth Day in 1970!

Today, New York State's millions of acres of wilderness shelter diverse habitats that are home to many rare plants and at-risk indigenous species. But ‘protected' doesn't mean ‘inaccessible'; the state's rugged mountains, remote rivers, lakes and ponds and extensive forests are traversed by nearly 2,000 miles of trails.

The state's commitment to conservation continues to grow. The original Adirondack and Catskill Mountain preserves have been expanded and joined by more than 175 state parks with recreational activities that include fishing, hiking, mountain biking, swimming and kayaking. Some even offer horseback riding, golf, cottages or campsites.

Earth Day is dedicated to making sure everyone appreciates and values the natural resources of the planet. This year, state parks and other wilderness preserves will be offering Earth Day activities from scavenger hunts and guided walks to clean-up projects, and whether you're looking to join an organized program or simply enjoy nature on your own terms, New York State Parks are the place to be!

The following is a just a sampling of enticing ways to celebrate Earth Day 2013 in New York's State Parks and wilderness areas:

Sun with Seals. Along the eastern tip of Long Island, seals come up on the shore to bask in the afternoon sun, and this guided Seal Hike at Montauk Point State Park is timed for their sun time. Harbor seals are the most common species, but harp, grey, hooded and ringed seals are often seen as well. This scenic coastal hike is offered on Saturday, April 20 at 9:00 am and Sunday, April 21 at 11:00 am. For more information please call (631) 668-5000 or visit: http://nysparks.com/events/event.aspx?e=61-6962.0.

While there: See the historic Montauk Lighthouse, enjoy some of the world's best surf fishing and see if you can spot the heady swirl of converging tides from the Atlantic and Block Island Sounds. For more information, please call (631) 668-2544 or visit: http://www.montauklighthouse.com/.

Beautify a beach. Craft vendors, food, and free tree seedling give-a-ways are among the Earth Day events planned at Hamlin Beach State Park in the Finger Lakes. The festivities will begin at 9 am on Saturday April 20.  Admission to the park and events are free, bring your pets too! For more information please call (585) 964-2462 or visit: http://nysparks.com/parks/20/details.aspx.

While there: Stroll along the sandy beach, fish for salmon or trout, follow the self-guided nature trail at the Yanty Creek marsh or enjoy one of the 10 miles of hiking and biking trails.

Walk with a Riddell.  The 1,000 acre Robert V. Riddell State Park in Central New York was a gift from Patricia Riddell Kent and Steve Kent. The park offers a variety of family-friendly passive recreational opportunities. As part of an extensive statewide trail network, it is a preferred destination for hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Additional activities include bird-watching, snowshoeing and fishing. For more information, please call (607) 432-2114 or visit: http://nysparks.com/parks/18/details.aspx.

While there: Pick up a trail map to explore more of the park's 1,000-plus acres of forests, open fields and sugar shacks, stone walls and other remnants of the former estate at this recently donated park.

Run with your eyes wide open. At the Envirun 5K Run for the Environment on Goat Island on April 20 at Niagara Falls State Park, the scenery could be the biggest challenge. Runners will get on their marks at 10:30 am and proceeds will support environmental programs and education. The $20 fee ($15 for students under 18) is halved for those registering online http://www.awmanfs.org/envirun.htm and a post-race party will include live music and free refreshments.

While there: Take a boat ride under Niagara Falls on the Maid of the Mist or a Whirlpool Jet Boat tour through the Niagara River rapids.

Nurture your love of nature. Inspired by Earth Day? "I Love My Park Day," a statewide event, kicks off this year on Saturday May 4, 2013. Many of the state parks will be organizing volunteers for conservation and other projects. Last year at Allegany State Park, volunteers and park staff worked together to restore the historic Sweetwater Spring. At Thacher State Park, young and old helped clear trails, plant flowers and build a bridge. This year, Parks & Trails New York will work to build on the success of the event by engaging new volunteers, building a strong community of park stewards, and expanding friends groups' capacity. For more information please contact Laura DiBetta by email at ldibetta@ptny.org or call (518) 434-1583. You can also visit http://www.ptny.org/ilovemypark/about.shtml.

Watchable Wildlife.  This is the fastest growing segment for family travel and in New York State, which ranks fifth in the U.S. for number of wildlife-watching participants, it just got even better. The Department of Environment Conservation (DEC) and New York State Parks and Recreations recently introduced a new program called Watchable Wildlife, which offers a schedule of events and tips on what types of species can be found in New York State along with where they can be found and what the best times to view them are. From bald eagles, falcons and Osprey to Monarch Butterflies, coyotes and black bears; New York State offers something different for everyone. For more information, please visit: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/55423.html.

More Parks to Visit

Moreau Lake State Park in the Capital-Saratoga region lies amidst hardwood forests, pine stands and rocky ridges. Shady groves of trees shelter picnic grounds perfect for family fun. Wooded campgrounds are quiet and secluded, offering facilities for group campers, as well as tent and trailer sites. The sandy beach, nature, hiking and cross-country ski trails, boating, fishing and ice fishing, and proximity to the Saratoga Springs and Lake George areas make the park attractive to visitors all year round. For more information and to make reservations please call (518) 793-0511 or visit: http://nysparks.com/parks/150/details.aspx.

The Minnewaska State Park Preserve in the Hudson Valley is situated on the dramatic Shawangunk Mountain ridge, which rises more than 2,000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by rugged, rocky terrain. Visitors can enjoy numerous waterfalls, three crystalline sky lakes, dense hardwood forests, sheer cliffs and ledges opening to beautiful views, clear streams cut into valleys, world-class rock climbing and 25 miles of footpaths on which to bike, walk, hike and simply enjoy. Horseback riding and cross-country ski trails are available as well. For more information, please call 845 255-0752 or visit: http://nysparks.com/parks/127/details.aspx.

For the camaraderie that comes with working on a team, join the Catskills Trail Crew. The Trail Conference trail crews are made up of volunteers dedicated to the construction and rehabilitation of trails in the Catskill region. Bring your lunch, plenty of water, gloves and sturdy work shoes, and be prepared to get dirty. For more information and how to sign-up, please call (201) 512-9348 or visit: http://www.nynjtc.org/content/catskill-trail-crews.

Whether you're searching for a place to enjoy Earth Day or to simply enjoy the great outdoors at any time of the year, why not go back to place where environmentalism began--the "forever wild" parklands and preserves of New York State!

For more information on parks and events, visit www.iloveny.com. Also, a complete listing of parks searchable by activities, amenities, region and park name as well as Earth Day programs, is available from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation at http://www.nysparks.com/parks/