Just in time for the holidays, two major announcements were made that will keep the parks, trails and open spaces we love protected from the impacts of intense development.
After many, many months of delay, the state announced it would ban hydrofracking in New York. While the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s proposed regulations included a recommendation that surface drilling be banned on state-owned lands – including parks and trails – they did not go far enough to protect public recreation lands, nor was a thorough analysis of the impacts of hydrofracking on these lands and the region’s tourism economy completed.
Later the same day, New Yorkers learned the location of new casinos in the state. Through the state’s selection and siting process, four casino sites were expected to be named with at least one casino allowed in each of three regions: the Catskills and the Hudson Valley; the Saratoga-Albany region; and a narrow strip in western New York, running from Binghamton north to the Canadian border.
Three of the nine proposed sites in the Catskills and Hudson Valley threatened the scenic vistas enjoyed by millions of visitors to New York’s parks and trails, as well as the natural resources protected by adjacent state parks.
The biggest potential threat came from the Sterling Forest Casino Resort, proposed by Genting Americas on a 240-acre inholding in Sterling Forest State Park on Route 17A in Tuxedo in Orange County. The 1.5 million-square-foot development would have seriously impacted critical habitat for nesting and migratory birds and the drinking water for 3 million residents in New York and New Jersey. The proposal would also have likely required public parkland from Harriman State Park for a new Thruway exit. PTNY joined with many other organizations in opposition to this inappropriate development.
In the end, the Gaming Facility Location Board’s selections did not include Sterling Forest or any of the proposed casinos for Orange County.
The outdoors – and all New Yorkers and visitors to the state – won big with these decisions. But cases like these serve as important reminders that the natural and recreational resources we enjoy continue to face significant threats. The need for strong public support for our parks, trails, and open spaces remains and is key to keeping these treasured places protected for current and future generations.