OSI's acquisition of two parcels will enable the State to overhaul of the Watkins Glen State Park entrance. A USA Today Reader’s Choice Poll recently named Watkins Glen the third-best state park in the nation. (Photo Rendering: New York State Parks)
WATKINS GLEN, NY—February 11, 2016—Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $6.5 million project to transform the main entrance to Watkins Glen State Park. The new configuration is made possible by the Open Space Institute’s acquisition of two key properties adjoining the park.
The project will relocate the parking area away from the gorge, creating a less congested and more welcoming approach to this leading Finger Lakes tourism destination. The main entrance parking lot will be returned to green space, creating new park amenities and enhanced interpretation of Watkin Glen’s unique natural and cultural history.
“Watkins Glen State Park is one of New York’s greatest tourism success stories, and as more and more people visit the park each year, we must ensure it remains a premier destination,” Governor Cuomo said. “This project will do just that and we will continue to invest in our natural assets to attract more visitors and economic activity to regions across the state.”
Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said, “Governor Cuomo’s NY Parks 2020 plan is transforming our parks – and in doing so better connecting new visitors and tourists to these incredible places. This project will help visitors to have richer and more rewarding experiences at the park, while vastly improving the gateway to the village of Watkins Glen. I am grateful to the Open Space Institute for helping make this project a reality.”
OSI President and Chief Executive Officer Kim Elliman said, “Watkins Glen State Park is among New York’s most cherished and spectacular recreational destinations and a significant economic asset for the Finger Lakes region. For too long, however, the approach to this majestic park has detracted from the park’s exquisite beauty and grandeur. These acquisitions will allow the state to move forward with overhaul the gateway and improve overall visitor experience.”
Redevelopment of the park’s entrance will include relocating the parking area away from the gorge and across Franklin Street, which will improve vehicular traffic flow on village streets as well as pedestrian traffic flow in the park. The two newly-acquired properties will be joined by a vacant lot already owned by State Parks to create a new parking lot.
The state’s $5 million commitment is expected to leverage an additional $1.5 million in grants and private investment. The hardscape entrance to the gorge will be transformed into a more natural landscaped park setting. The area will include a new visitor welcome center where park staff can provide information about the park and the Watkins Glen Chamber of Commerce will have a counter to provide information about other attractions in the region. Other improvements will include a small outdoor amphitheater and improved educational displays on the park’s human history and natural and geologic features, including a touchable model of the gorge, and a new overlook at the base of the gorge where people with mobility challenges will be able to enjoy the waterfalls. Other improvements include renovating the park’s existing concession/rest room building and reopening the “Indian Trail,” which has been closed for over 50 years.
Construction is expected to begin this summer and be complete for the 2017 summer season. Access to the gorge will be maintained during the project.