Nearly $3.6 Million in Improvements at Wellesley Island and Grass Point State Parks Now Complete

Construction Begins on $1 Million Accessible Trail at Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area

Albany, N.Y.(Aug. 5) -- Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that $4.5 million projects will enhance outdoor recreation for people of all ages and abilities in the Thousand Islands Region. A roughly $3.6 million project to improve the beachfront and campgrounds of Wellesley Island and Grass Point State Parks is now complete, making the parks more attractive to visitors to these popular destinations on the St. Lawrence River in the Thousand Islands region. In addition, construction is now underway on a $1 million accessible trail at Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area in St. Lawrence County.

"From fishing, swimming and boating to camping out under the stars, the Thousand Islands offer a wealth of recreational experiences for visitors from across the state and beyond," said Governor Cuomo. "To know the North Country is to love the North Country and with these important projects, we're investing in some of the region's best assets. I encourage everyone to pay the Thousand Islands a visit and see what you've been missing."

Wellesley Island State Park Improvements

At Wellesley Island State Park, in Fineview, Jefferson County, State Parks completed a $2 million project to replace the bathhouse at the park's popular swimming beach. The new facility includes improved bathrooms, changing areas, a concession area and an adjoining open-air covered pavilion. To complement this completed project, the park's campground recreation and games area will be relocated to the new facility in the Spring of 2016, instead of its current location in a barn away from the beach and across a park road.

State Parks also completed an $850,000 project to upgrade Wellesley Island State Park's popular RV camping loop. The sites in the park have been enlarged to 40 feet, and 12 of the 53 full hook-up sites now have 50 amp service for the first time. The rest of the sites have been upgraded to offer 30 amp service. The project included repaving park roadways and replacing the campground's outdated drinking water and sewer systems.

Grass Point State Park Improvements

At Grass Point State Park in the town of Orleans, Jefferson County, State Parks completed a $735,000 project to replace the deteriorated beach bathhouse with a modern facility, including new bathrooms and changing areas and a new lifeguard station. The project included installation of a new walkway to an adjacent playground, which was installed in 2014.

The Thousand Islands region is one of most popular destinations for camping in New York State, with 2,400 campsites. Wellesley Island is the largest camping facility in the state, boasting 432 campsites, 10 cabins and 12 cottages, which hosted more than 28,000 overnight stays in in 2014 - more than any other campground in the state park system.

The projects are among State Park improvements taking place across New York under Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's NY Parks 2020 program, a multi-year commitment to leverage $900 million in private and public funding for State Parks from 2011 to 2020. The Governor's 2015-16 Executive Budget allocates $110 million toward this initiative. Last year, State Parks completed projects to improve boating facilities at Keewaydin, Long Point and Kring Point State Parks on the St. Lawrence River.

Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks), said, "Thanks to Governor Cuomo's NY Parks 2020, we are revitalizing popular and heavily used park facilities that were neglected for far too long. I thank Governor Cuomo for his commitment to modernizing our state parks, and helping improve the outdoor recreational facilities that draw so many visitors to the Thousand Islands."

Accessible Nichols Trail at Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area

The new accessible trail at Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area (WMA) will be approximately one mile of the larger trail network that will be suitable for persons using mobility devices, such as wheelchairs. The trail will feature scenic overlooks and viewing platforms, including a unique, accessible blind. This blind shields visitors from the sight of sensitive wildlife and can be used for both wildlife observation and also waterfowl hunting during the appropriate hunting seasons.

The WMA is an open water wetland adjacent to the St. Lawrence River located approximately six miles west of the village of Massena. This 4,300-acre area consists of several large, open water pools of approximately 2,000 acres bordered by cattail, shrub swamp, forest and meadows, and protects critical wildlife and fisheries habitat along the shoreline of the St. Lawrence River. The new trail also provide scenic views of the Nichols Hill Pool, which is an important wetland managed by the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that provides spawning and breeding habitat for both fish and wildlife. DEC will provide long-term monitoring and management of the trail.

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) provided nearly $1 million for the design and construction of the trail. The funds are part of the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project Relicensing Settlement Agreements. The trail is scheduled to open in October.

Acting DEC Commissioner Marc Gerstman said, "Governor Cuomo has ensured that accessibility remains the major cornerstone for many of the significant upgrades at our state owned trails and parks. This project in St. Lawrence County is yet another example of that continued effort to ensure people of all ages and abilities can enjoy a great outdoor experience."

Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO, said, "NYPA takes its role as an environmental steward in the areas where our plants operate very seriously. The Wilson Hill trail is near our St. Lawrence power project and has special meaning for NYPA. This project ensures more people will experience the scenic beauty and diversity of wildlife that make the Thousand Islands so special."

Senator Joseph Griffo said, "With so many people traveling to the St. Lawrence River and Thousand Islands region every year to enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities, we want to ensure that these visitors experience the most attractive and most accessible destinations as possible. The Governor's improvements to these trails and parks will allow the region to continue to highlight the best and most beautiful sites it has to offer so they can be enjoyed for many years to come."

State Senator Patty Ritchie said, "With its endless opportunities for boating, fishing and other outdoor activities, the Thousand Islands region is truly a gem of the area I represent."

Assembly member Addie Russell said, "I'm ecstatic about the investment in our community for our residents and because it will further enhance our tourism economy. We know the return on these targeted investments is significant. Projects like these support jobs, not just during the construction phase but also by drawing in visitors to the region who explore the many small businesses we have locally that contribute to the high quality of life we enjoy in the North Country."