Looking for sun and fun on a budget?
Each summer, New Yorkers find themselves looking for vacation options that won’t strain their wallets. But while the Jersey Shore beckons and Walt Disney World fills near capacity, there are natural wonders that are far more affordable and only a short drive from home.
With CSEA members running a vast number of state campgrounds, cabins, beaches and more, you needn’t leave New York state to make priceless summer vacation memories.
Workers take pride in parks
Take Harriman State Park, for example. While many flock to the nearby Woodbury Common Premium Outlets for designer bargains, just up the hill is full-service camping, ponds for fishing, hiking trails and a lifeguard-staffed beach under an hour from New York City.
Karen Melanson is one of many CSEA members working in state parks with a passion for the outdoors and a commitment to maintaining the agency’s sites and programs for generations to come. She handles maintenance in Harriman State Park, assists park patrons and is called on as a firefighter when brush and wildfires break out.
“The parks are really relaxing and something the public can do very affordably,” said Melanson, who also volunteers as a CSEA peer safety trainer. “It’s a really valuable resource in this day and age. People are able to get outside, get active and enjoy nature. It’s great that we are able to help bring that service to the community.”
Parks workers’ jobs are often an extension of their passions. Melanson grew up spending lots of time outdoors and fishing with her father. She and her co-workers enjoy seeing parks visitors spark a love of nature.
“I have a lot of pride in doing my best to make the visitor experience better,” Melanson said. “Anything I can do to help someone on their first time or their thousandth time out in the parks makes me happy.”
Restoring, maintaining state gems
The 2015-16 state budget added $110 million in funds to enhance state parks, part of a multi-year plan to modernize aging facilities and go green. The infusion of funds is a step in the right direction after years of underfunding and infrastructure neglect.
State parks have long played an important role in leveling the playing field economically, ensuring all have access to some of the state’s most beautiful natural sites and placing swimming pools and recreation in urban areas where residents might not otherwise be able to cool down.
CSEA members have taken a lead role in maintenance and upgrades across the state, so be sure to add a state park or historic site to your summer bucket list.
— Jessica Ladlee
A few suggestions…
Whether it’s the magnificence of Montauk or the wonder of Niagara Falls, New York’s state parks system has plenty of choices for vacations and day trips. Here are a few favorites to consider.
Long Island Region
Hither Hills State Park
164 Old Montauk Highway
Montauk, NY 11954
The family-friendly ocean beach is also home to a playground, picnic areas and a 168-site campground.
Riverbank State Park
679 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10031
This unique urban rooftop park overlooks the Hudson River and boasts an Olympic-sized pool, playing fields, a skating rink and a carousel.
Mills Norrie State Park
9 Old Post Road
Staatsburg, NY 12580
Here, you can camp out or rent a cabin with spectacular Hudson River views while spending your days kayaking, touring the stately Mills Mansion or visiting nearby historic Hyde Park.
Saratoga Spa State Park
19 Roosevelt Drive
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Distinguished by its classical architecture and listed as a National Historic Landmark, noted for its diverse cultural, aesthetic and recreational resources.
Green Lakes State Park
7900 Green Lakes Road
Fayetteville, NY 13066
This park with two glacial lakes offers camping, golf, swimming and hiking in an area centrally located for upstate New Yorkers.
Hamlin Beach State Park
1 Hamlin Road
Hamlin, NY 14464
On the shores of Lake Ontario, this park’s clear water, sandy beaches and tent and trailer campsite options draws thousands for swimming, biking, fishing and boating.