NYS Parks Recreation Historic PreservationOpening of "Ladders to the Outdoors" cabin project and education area designed for groups of children from underserved communities

New playground and bathhouse also unveiled for park-goers 

Photos available here. 

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) today announced the completion of $3 million in improvements at Green Lakes State Park in Onondaga County. A new cabin camping area and a nearby playground and four-season bathhouse were designed for small groups of children to camp overnight and recreate. State Parks has designated this new area to host groups through its “Ladders to the Outdoors” program that works to increase children’s access to outdoor recreational spaces, equipment, transportation, and skills development in underserved communities. 

"Everyone deserves access to the outdoors and to engage with New York’s incredible natural resources, especially the next generation,” said Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Erik Kulleseid. “These upgrades and new amenities will serve Central New York residents and visitors for decades to come. Green Lakes State Park’s ‘Ladders to the Outdoors’ program removes financial barriers to getting children to play outdoors, try new sports, take a hike, or camp out in nature.”

The upgrades at Green Lakes State Park include:

  • A $93,000 rehabilitation of an existing cabin and the purchase of a new cabin area specifically for “Ladders to the Outdoors” groups, plus $130,000 in programming funding;
  • A new $910,000 playground that will increase physical and visual connections between the play area and the surrounding beach, picnic area, and woods, and it also include environmental education signposts. It also provides more universally accessible play equipment and travel routes of poured-in-place safety surfacing from the beach. Natural play features such as logs and boulders, small flora and fauna themed elements, as well as more standard equipment, create a variety of play experiences;
  • A new almost $2 million bathhouse to address the clear need for year-round restroom and changing rooms on the West side of Green Lake. The bathhouse includes additional toilets, two individual family restrooms, a wheelchair charging station, and much needed changing stalls on the lake’s west side. Using the rustic materials and design aesthetic of its predecessor, the West Beach bathhouse is in keeping with the Green Lakes’ family of original buildings.

“We know that engaging youth in parks and recreation helps to develop a lifelong love of the outdoors, and I am so thankful to the Central New York Community Foundation, the Gifford Foundation, the United Way of Central New York, and Wegmans Food Markets for helping us outreach to the most in-need communities," Kulleseid said.  

$2.9 million in funding for the projects was sourced from New York State Parks capital funds, with the remainder from grants from the Central New York Community Foundation and Gifford Foundation, administered by the National Heritage Trust.   

State Parks’ “Ladders to the Outdoors” program, which has served approximately 25,000 youth since 2020, began in Western NY with funding from a $860,000 grant to the Natural Heritage Trust from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation. The goal of the program is to remove barriers to accessing outdoor recreational spaces by providing equipment, transportation, and outdoor skills development in underserved communities near state parks. This public-private partnership has expanded to serve communities in Central New York and in the lower Hudson Valley.  

In Central New York, “Ladders to the Outdoors” is supported through grants to the National Heritage Trust totaling $90,000 from the Central NY Community Foundation, the Gifford Foundation, and the United Way of Central New York. This funding supports the development of and community outreach for participation in free youth recreational programs and instructional classes; recreational equipment including bikes, kayaks, fishing gear and sports equipment for community use; the rehabilitation of athletic fields and addition of accessible play equipment at several state park playgrounds like the one newly built at Green Lakes and the rehabilitation of the cabin and education area at Green Lakes which will house “Ladders to the Outdoors” programs. Transportation to parks is also offered through the New York State Connect-Kids-to-Parks program.   

State Senator John Mannion said, “Keeping Green Lakes State Park well-maintained, accessible, and a welcoming place to enjoy the outdoors requires investment and leadership. These new amenities will make it even easier for people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy the outdoors. I am particularly excited about the new ‘Ladders to the Outdoors’ cabin project, which will provide underserved children with access to outdoor recreation. I am grateful for the support of the Central New York Community Foundation, the Gifford Foundation, and the United Way of Central New York, and I encourage everyone to visit Green Lakes State Park and experience all that it has to offer.” 

Assemblymember Al Stirpe said, ““What a delight to see these much-anticipated family friendly improvements complete and accessible to the public! There are already plenty of reasons for residents and tourists to visit the unique Green Lakes State Park but this multi-million-dollar upgrade to the park’s cabin camping, playground area and bathhouse, will undoubtedly bring smiles to many local kids’ faces as they reconnect with nature and participate in year-round fun activities. I applaud Governor Hochul and regional partners for their investment toward this beloved and vital tourism destination.” 

Tom Griffith, Interim President & CEO and Vice President of Development at the Central New York Community Foundation, said, “Positive exposure to nature provides educational and health benefits for youth, but accessibility is a limiting factor for many. We are proud to support the work that the National Heritage Trust is doing to eliminate barriers through its CNY ‘Ladders to the Outdoors’ program by introducing outdoor experiences to youth in Syracuse neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and limited access to green space. It is incredibly rewarding to see how our grant funding to the program is helping address inequities and give children the opportunity to experience all that nature has to offer.” 

Bethaida “Bea” Gonzalez, State Council of Parks Commission Member and Central NY Community Foundation Board Member said, “The ‘Ladders to the Outdoors’ project has been a very successful collaboration for our community, the National Heritage Trust and Green Lakes State Parks, the Gifford Foundation and the CNYCF. Bringing together community partners committed to enrichment programs for our children. ‘Ladders to the Outdoors’ provides our children an opportunity to experience the benefits of the outdoors but it also exposes them to an entire set of career options they would not have known existed.” 

Sheena Solomon, Executive Director of the Gifford Foundation said, "The breathtaking forests, waterways, and trails at Green Lakes State Park are some of the most enriching natural assets our region has to offer and play a deep role in defining what it means to grow up in Central New York. This investment helps lift up this resource by ensuring that all youth, regardless of background, can enjoy and learn from it." 

Nancy Kern Eaton, President United Way of Central New York said, “We are proud to support the ‘Ladders to the Outdoors’ program. It is exciting to be a part of this collaborative effort for youth to experience our beautiful state parks.” 

Jenni Gratien, Executive Director of Boys & Girls Club of Syracuse said, “For the last two years, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Syracuse has partnered with ‘Ladders to the Outdoors’ to provide the youth we serve with enriching, educational and fun programming at Green Lakes State Park. They have enjoyed camping, canoeing, archery, hiking and programming that has helped to foster a deep understanding and appreciation for nature. This partnership has had an amazing impact on our kids by helping to expose them to an environment that expands their horizon. Studies indicate that exposing youth to nature in this manner provides them with a strong sense of self, independence, confidence, creativity, decision-making and problem-solving skills, empathy towards others, self-discipline and initiative.  We are looking forward to continuing our partnership with ‘Ladders to the Outdoors’ as we work together to enrich the lives of the youth we serve at BGCS.” 

Community organizations, school groups and others serving youth of all ages in the region are encouraged to contact the “Ladders to the Outdoors” regional coordinator, Staffon.Donerlson@parks.ny.gov, to learn more about program opportunities and scheduling events.   

The Natural Heritage Trust is a non-profit, public-benefit corporation with the mission to receive and administer gifts, grants and contributions to further public programs for parks, recreation, cultural, land and water conservation and historic preservation purposes of the State of New York. The NHT accomplishes its mission by accepting donations, raising funds, and through cooperative programs and projects with its agency partners: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Department of State (DOS). For more information visit www.naturalheritagetrust.org

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 79.5 million visits in 2022. 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 on FacebookInstagram and Twitter