Saturday, June 25

Governor Hochul Announces Improved Public Access at Hempstead Lake State Park

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Governor Kathy Hochul has announced completion of $3.6 million in improvements at Hempstead Lake State Park on Long Island that enhance public accessibility to the park and its namesake lake, the largest body of freshwater in Nassau County. The project included creation of 4.75 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, along with improved connections to the lake and ponds with a kayak launch and fishing pier.
“These improvements will expand much-needed access to outdoor recreation for Long Island families, while making the community more resilient to future storms,” Governor Hochul said. “The ongoing transformation of Hempstead Lake State Park will help protect Hewlett Bay, reduce flood risk, provide visitors with enhanced recreational opportunities, and educate the next generation of Long Islanders about the environmental challenges facing the region.”
Recently completed work at the park that is now open to the public includes:
  • a new ADA compliant fishing pier on Hempstead Lake with light-piercing decks for enhanced fish habitat;
  • a new 20-foot observation tower that provides panoramic views:
  • a new elevated walkway that provides ADA access to the tower;
  • a new ADA compliant kayak launch with a drop-off ramp;
  • two raised crosswalks with solar flashing stop signs;
  • new 10-foot wide trails with stone dust optimized for equestrian riding: and
  • new stairs and handrails providing safe public access to the lake.
The improvements are part of a $47 million transformation of Hempstead Lake State Park, supported by a $35 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant, and $12 million in Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) capital funds. This project is the result of a partnership involving State Parks, the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, HUD, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The project is part of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery’s $125 million Living with the Bay initiative to increase the resiliency of communities along Mill River and around South Shore bays by mitigating damage from storm surges; managing stormwater to mitigate damages from common rain events; improving habitat and water quality; and increasing access to the Mill River through both educational and increased recreational opportunities.
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “The support from HUD and the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery has made this popular park, which has drawn more than 3.5 million visitors during the last decade, an even more attractive destination for healthy and safe outdoor recreation in this heavily populated region. Further work is continuing that will reshape it to better withstand the extreme weather that is part of human-induced climate change and to help protect its nearby communities from flooding.”
Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery Executive Director Katie Brennan said, “Parks are one of our most vital environmental assets. These improvements to Hempstead Lake State Park enhance resiliency, expand access to recreation, and strengthen the community’s social connections to nature and the watershed. We are proud that the park serves as an example for how New York is leading the way on adapting to climate change and building our next generation of resiliency leaders.”
Senator Chuck Schumer said, “In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I fought hard to secure billions of dollars in federal investment for green, resilient infrastructure throughout New York, including $125 million dedicated to Mill River Watershed, and much of that money has gone to improvements at Hempstead Lake State Park. Not only are those funds making the park and surrounding communities more resilient, they are improving public safety and access so more Long Islanders can advantage of all the park has to offer, just in time for summer. I applaud the work of Governor Hochul and New York State Parks, as well as all the local, state, and federal partners who made these improvements possible.”
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, “Hempstead Lake State Park is a Long Island treasure and I applaud the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for the important improvements they added to the park. Hempstead Lake State Park’s upgrades will enhance accessibility for Long Island residents, allowing many more visitors to enjoy its scenic green spaces, miles of adventure and healthy recreational activities.”
Representative Kathleen Rice said, “Hempstead Lake State Park offers essential outdoor recreation space for all of Long Island to enjoy. I am so glad that we are investing in keeping this public land safe, clean and accessible.”
State Senator Kevin Thomas said, “Hempstead Lake State Park is both a vital environmental resource and important recreation area enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Nassau County residents and visitors each year. These improvements will ensure that residents can enjoy this beautiful green space for generations to come. I thank New York State Parks for their continued partnership and dedication to preserving our valuable natural resources and enhancing New Yorkers’ quality of life.”
Assemblymember Taylor Darling said, “I am elated that Hempstead Lake State Park has completed repairs and modifications to improve accessibility so all New Yorkers can enjoy our beautiful park. As a founding member of the first ever People with Disabilities Committee, these improvements are so necessary. These enormous improvements will encourage even better adventures for years to come. I would like to thank everyone who made these advancements possible, especially our Parks Department, you all rock! This is a great accomplishment for all involved!”
Assemblymember Judy Griffin said, “I am so excited to see the outstanding projects at Hempstead Lake State Park come to fruition with fun recreational activities for all ages. The residents of Assembly District 21 and visitors will enjoy the beautiful new hiking, biking and horseback riding trails along with a new fishing pier and kayak launch. We are so fortunate to have this pristine state park in our community and I thank Governor Hochul, New York State Parks, and all the agencies involved in providing these enhancements, upgrades and accessibility to the public. I look forward to the completion of the future projects that are all part of the $47 million transformation of Hempstead Lake State Park.”
Ongoing improvements to stabilize the only high hazard dam on Long Island—the Hempstead Lake Dam—are currently taking place. The Hempstead Lake gatehouse and South Pond inlet house are currently being renovated, with the Hempstead Lake facility to receive new operable sluice gates that will allow park staff to control lake levels prior to and during storms. Repairs are also planned for the stone face of the dam to comply with safety regulations from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. These improvements are scheduled to be completed by September 2022.
Planned trail improvements for December 2022 also include a new 10-foot wide stone dust greenway trail to provide a continuous north to south trail system through the park, as well as a new 8-foot wide stone dust wetland trail.
Further project work expected to be completed in December 2022 includes improvements to the park’s Northern Ponds to mitigate flood risk on the Mill River and reduce pollution entering Hewlett Bay. Work includes a new Eagle Avenue parking lot to serve as a gateway entrance, repairs to the Northwest Pond dam, new drainage culverts, two new steel pedestrian bridges, an observation deck overlooking Northeast Pond, systems to collect floating debris from entering the ponds area from surrounding highly urbanized neighborhoods, removal of invasive species with replanting of native species to support enhanced plant and animal biodiversity, and creation of new wetlands and channels to filter stormwater from the nearby Southern State Parkway.
Last September, Governor Hochul opened the park’s $8.3 million Environmental Education and Resiliency Center under this project. The 8,000-square-foot center offers hands-on learning on the topics of storm resiliency and environmental management; provides space for community outreach; and serves as an emergency coordination center during disaster response.
The park’s new Environmental Education and Resiliency Center features exhibits and information explaining climate change impacts, community resiliency processes, and environmental stewardship, and includes a deck overlooking Hempstead Lake. Additional year-round education programming will help enhance the community’s understanding of and relationship to the Mill River Watershed.
The Center includes community space for environmental education, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and community organizations. The Nassau County Law Enforcement Explorer Program, run by the Nassau County Police Department, uses the center for local community outreach, combatting gang violence positively engaging young people through mentoring and education. The facility can also function as a storm response “Command Post” for local disaster response coordination for first responders, as well as an area for utility companies coordinate equipment staging, enhancing their emergency response to restore critical utilities.
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 in 2021 were visited by record 78.4 million people.  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 Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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