We Are NYIn Celebration of New York State Parks’ Centennial, Interactive Digital Timeline Details Development of Parks System Through Images, Videos and Text 

Educational Tool Part of Multi-Faceted, Yearlong Centennial Celebration

Governor Kathy Hochul today launched an interactive, online timeline titled ‘Blazing a Trail: A History of New York State Parks and Historic Sites’ in celebration of New York State Parks’ Centennial. Organized by eight chronological eras, the first two installments of the timeline are available here, with subsequent eras launching throughout 2024. 

“The New York State Parks Centennial is the perfect opportunity to explore the rich history of our parks and historic sites,” Governor Hochul said. “Local leaders, philanthropists, businesses and people from across this state worked together to create a nation-leading parks system that has become one of New York’s most cherished recreational and cultural treasures. I invite all New Yorkers to experience ‘Blazing A Trail’ and learn about this integral part of our state.” 

‘Blazing A Trail’ employs photographs, illustrations, paintings, documents, archival footage, maps and narrative to tell the story of the development of the New York State Parks system. The timeline experience introduces important figures in the agency’s history and examines the social and political context of each era of development. The first two eras are currently live: “Laying the Foundation: 1850-1924” and “Adopting The Park Plan: 1924-1929.”  

In these eras, users will learn about the drive to conserve natural spaces during the rapid development of the late 1800s and preserve the nation’s past as the country celebrated its first century, and explore how the focus of the early parks movement shifted from preservation to recreation at the dawn of the 20th century. They will encounter leaders such as Gov. Alfred Smith, whose upbringing in New York City’s tenements instilled a lifelong drive to improve the lives of the urban poor and who was influential in the system’s creation, and philanthropists such as Robert and Laura Treman, William Pryor Letchworth, and John Boyd and Emma Treadwell Thacher, who purchased and donated land and whose names are now enshrined in the parks created on their donated lands. Each era includes the individual histories of the parks and sites added in the timeframe.  

Additional eras launching throughout the year will cover the rise of the automobile, the influence of the Great Depression and Civilian Conservation Corps on Parks, the development of the system under the post-World War II Rockefeller administration, the creation of the modern Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), efforts to expand the agency's diverse portfolio of parks, and more. Future eras include 1930-1945, 1945-1959, 1960-1971, 1972-1999, 2000-Today, and Tomorrow and Beyond. 

Commissioner Pro Tempore of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Randy Simons said, “This timeline represents decades of archival collection and preservation, and a great deal of research, curation, and writing by the dedicated historians and archivists of our Division Of Historic Preservation, both past and present. When people experience ‘Blazing A Trail,’ they will gain an understanding of the forces that shaped the Park system we know and love today, and a greater appreciation of this public treasure.” 

‘Blazing A Trail’ is the latest in a series of initiatives to celebrate the Parks Centennial. Other initiatives include an exhibit in the New York State Capitol’s State Street Tunnel currently on view; the Share Your Story project, which invites people to tell their own stories relating to Parks and Sites; the Centennial Challenge, which encourages people to win prizes by participating in various activities at parks and sites; and the release of the Centennial Collection merchandise, which includes t-shirts, hoodies, mugs and more. Additional initiatives will be announced throughout 2024. 

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which saw a record 84 million visits in 2023. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer app or call 518.474.0456. Join us in celebrating our Centennial throughout 2024, and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and the OPRHP Blog