Center Will Welcome Visitors and Introduce Them to the 24,000-Acre Preserve
NY Parks 2020 Initiative Leverages Public-Private Investment to Modernize Minnewaska State Park Preserve Gateway
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced today the opening of a new visitor center at the Minnewaska State Park Preserve on the Shawangunk Ridge. A public-private partnership with the Open Space Institute created the modern facility overlooking Lake Minnewaska to welcome and guide visitors arriving to explore the 24,000-acre preserve and provide public amenities and education and programming space. The project installed modern facilities necessary to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors to the park needed since the administration of Governor Mario Cuomo acquired the site of a former resort hotel in 1987. The new visitor center caps a $27 million public-private multi-phase investment to modernize the gateway to Minnewaska State Park Preserve under Governor Cuomo's NY Parks 2020 initiative.
"Minnewaska State Park Preserve is one of New York's great natural treasures, offering matchless views and vast open spaces to explore," Governor Cuomo said. "This new visitor center is an essential addition to this destination park that will allow a whole new generation of visitors to better appreciate the unforgettable beauty and rich history that Minnewaska has to offer."
"In New York, we want residents and visitors to experience all of the attractions and natural resources that we have to offer," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "The opening of this new visitor center at the Minnewaska State Park Preserve will serve as a gateway for travelers, providing amenities and programming to explore the 24,000-acre preserve. The project is part of our overall efforts to enhance and modernize facilities across the state, helping to boost the tourism industry and continue to build back better and strengthen New York's economy."
The 5,400 square-foot facility will:
- help visitors navigate the park's expansive network of 50 miles of footpaths and 35 miles of carriage roads;
- encourage good environment stewardship and low-impact visits;
- provide educational programs and state of the art exhibits on the park's environment and history;
- provide an outdoor patio overlooking Lake Minnewaska;
- offer a place to warm up during cold weather; and
- provide public restrooms and drinking water.
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "As more and more people discover the majesty of Minnewaska State Park Preserve, it was critical to provide a modern public facility to welcome arriving visitors. The new visitor center will help our guests enjoy a deeper and more rewarding experience, help highlight the recreational assets the park has to offer, and encourage them to practice good environmental stewardship. I am tremendously grateful to Governor Cuomo and our partners for helping make this vital center a reality."
Kim Elliman, President and CEO of the Open Space Institute, said, "The completion of the long-awaited Lake Minnewaska Visitor Center is a capstone project of the Open Space Institute, topping off our 40-year history expanding this park and making it more welcoming and enjoyable to visitors. OSI is proud of this momentous accomplishment and the role we played in designing this inspiring building and interior space, supporting its construction, and creating exhibits that match the splendor of this site and will elevate the public's overall experience here at this beloved park. I congratulate the Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Kulleseid, and the park staff here at Minnewaska on this tremendous accomplishment and offer my sincere thanks to the many OSI supporters who donated to this project, as well as my fellow colleagues, past and present, who's remarkable vision and hard work made this day a reality."
In addition to the $6.1 million visitor center, the gateway project will enhance park aesthetics and dramatically improve the experience of visitors as they arrive at the park. Upgrades include: renovating the park roadway; installing new timber guide rails; adding two new electric vehicle charging stations; improving parking areas; adding new ADA accessible walkways; bringing potable public drinking water to the park for the first time; installing storm water and sewer management infrastructure; undergrounding utilities; adding native plantings and landscaping, and other site improvements. The first phase, completed in 2017, reconfigured the main entrance area on Route 44/55 to create stacking capacity for up to 50 vehicles waiting to enter the Preserve and added automated parking fee payment options to relieve traffic congestion and improve safety on peak visitation days. As part of the partnership, OSI raised $3 million in private funds and grants for building design, state-of-the-art exhibits and other upgrades and features for the visitor center.
Additional investments in the park since 2011 including investing $4.75 million in public and private funds to renovate over 21-miles of carriage roads, and $2.1 million to open the Shawangunk Gateway campground in partnership with the Mohonk Preserve and American Alpine Club in 2015.
Joshua Laird, Executive Director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission said, "With this spectacular new visitor center, the park will have a vastly improved capacity to greet visitors with information about the park's beautiful, yet fragile ecosystem and orient them to the array of hiking trails, recreational opportunities, and scenic destinations within the preserve. The Commission is grateful to Governor Cuomo and our partners at New York State Parks and the Open Space Institute for making this project happen."
Senator Jen Metzger said, "Minnewaska State Park is one of the most spectacular places in the Hudson Valley and the northeast United States, and one of my favorite destinations to hike, bike, cross-country ski, and swim. I am very pleased to have sponsored a capital grant to help fund the construction of the lake overlook deck, and want to express my appreciation to the Open Space Institute and the many partners that have made the new visitor's center possible. The pandemic has had major impacts on our communities, and I firmly believe that projects like this help us build back stronger and create a more resilient economy. This new visitor's center will attract more visitors to the park and to Ulster County, and educate them about the incredible natural bounty in the region, deepening appreciation of all we have to offer and bringing more tourism dollars into the local economy."
Assembly Member Kevin Cahill said, "The opening of the Minnewaska Visitor Center represents the culmination of literally generations of blood, sweat and tears to assure that the pristine beauty of our magnificent area is preserved and understood for posterity. These facilities are not intended to attract visitors. Instead, they facilitate those who come here. They guide them. They certainly put a spotlight on what should not be missed, but they also remind us of what should not be disturbed. This thoughtful appropriately scaled development in this vast preserve will serve those missions for generations to come. I am very proud of our efforts and that of so many friends to have brought us to this day."
Assembly Member Brian Miller said, "This is great news for the region. The Shawangunks are a destination for outdoor enthusiast from around the state and across the nation. Now, the hundreds-of-thousands of guests to this beautiful region of New York State will have a visitors center that matches the beauty of 'The 'Gunks'. The state's partnership with the Open Space Institute resulted in a wonderful facility that will now provide amenities for the public as well as educational information and space."
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said, "I am thrilled at the amazing support that has gone into enhancing and restoring the visitor experience at Minnewaska State Park. The new visitor center will be an asset to the residents of Ulster County and help expand our local tourism industry along with continuing to bolster Minnewaska's reputation as one of the region's treasured recreational assets. I thank Governor Andre Cuomo for his continued commitment to recreation and Ulster County."
Rochester Town Supervisor Mike Baden said, "The Town of Rochester is proud to have the crown jewel of the NYS Park System in our home. Minnewaska State Park exposes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to the bounty of the Town of Rochester. The simple beauty of this visitors center will continue this vision for decades to come."
The 24,000-acre Minnewaska State Park Preserve is New York's third-largest state park. More than 2,500 acres have been added to the preserve under Governor Cuomo's administration. Located atop a 2,000-foot rocky escarpment, the Park Preserve includes 35 miles of stone dust carriage roads, 50 miles of trails, and four pristine "sky lakes," as well as a rare dwarf pitch pine ecosystem in the Sam's Point Area, and is visited by nearly 500,000 people annually.
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails and boat launches, which were visited by a record 77 million people in 2019. A recent university study found that spending by State Parks and its visitors supports $5 billion in output and sales, 54,000 private-sector jobs and more than $2.8 billion in additional state GDP. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518.474.0456. Also, connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) was formed in 1900 to help preserve the cliffs of the New York and New Jersey Palisades under an interstate compact and is the nation's first bi-state partnership established to protect and conserve natural lands. Today PIPC oversees approximately 20 parks and historic sites from Fort Lee, NJ to Saugerties, NY, spanning over 125,000 acres and nine million annual visitors. The Commission's early work helped inspire the emerging fields of environmental stewardship and education, pioneered the goal of exposing children to nature through its group campgrounds, and served as an early model for the growth of the national park system. Its maple and oak leaf logo represents the official state trees of New York and New Jersey.