AMERICA'S GREAT OUTDOORS: Salazar Visits Roberto Clemente State Park; Highlights Projects in New York to Revitalize Harlem River Area, Increase Access to Finger Lakes

Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report to the President

Last edited 09/05/2019

NEW YORK, N.Y.— Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the outdoors, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of New York that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.

Secretary Salazar made the announcement during a visit to Roberto Clemente State Park, where increasing river access and restoring the Harlem River will be among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors. The other project is the Finger Lakes project in upstate New York, which aims to increase access to the lakes and connect populated areas with parks, other open space, and lakefronts.

Secretary Salazar was joined at the park by National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis; U.S. Congressman Jose E. Serrano; New York State Senator Jose M. Serrano; Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Regional Administrator George Pavlou; New York City Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland, and other officials from the City of New York and NPS.

“Roberto Clemente State Park is one of the top conservation priorities for the Obama administration, and we believe that the partnership we have with Congressman Serrano, the state of New York and New York City will be successful in reconnecting Americans with the great outdoors here along the Harlem River,” said Salazar. “This park is poised for a restoration that will make it a hub connecting neighborhoods and landscapes with the river.”

Secretary Salazar and Congressman Serrano also participated in a local launch of the Bronx and Harlem River Watersheds as one of seven pilot projects of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership—an effort by 11 federal agencies to stimulate regional and local economies, create local jobs, improve quality of life, and protect Americans' health by revitalizing urban waterways in under-served communities across the country. First announced in June, the new partnership brings together the state, city and federal efforts to improve access to the river and enhance recreational facilities.

“We are so gratified to have Secretary Salazar here to launch the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, which will improve upon our efforts to clean and revitalize rivers in the Bronx,” said Congressman Serrano. “The setting for this announcement at Roberto Clemente State Park is fitting because there is such a need for increased access to the Harlem River here. It is illustrative of the efforts we have been making for years to connect communities to restored natural resources in their own neighborhoods. We will also now have the partnership and resources of the federal government to revitalize our rivers and the surrounding communities—and show the rest of the nation how this can be such a powerful tool for community and environmental development.”

"Waterways like the Harlem and Bronx Rivers have the potential to be places where residents can connect to nature, relax and come together as a community," said George Pavlou, EPA Deputy Regional Administrator.

"Thanks to efforts like those under the auspices of the Urban Waters Initiative, these rivers have the potential to be clean and beautiful areas where local businesses set up shop and hire workers, where fitness enthusiasts can bike and run and hike."

Currently there is only one public access point on the Harlem River located on the Manhattan side of the river. Interior's National Park Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are working closely with New York City and community groups to create a new waterfront greenway along the Bronx side connecting the river to neighborhoods.

The 50-state America's Great Outdoors report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Secretary Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These critical projects were identified for their potential to build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the state of New York as well as private landowners, local and tribal elected officials, community organizations and outdoor recreation stakeholders.

“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of New York and communities across America and working with them on locally based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”

The two projects in New York highlighted by Secretary Salazar in the forthcoming report are:

Harlem River/Roberto Clemente State Park

Roberto Clemente Park is situated in the middle of a developing greenway along the Harlem River. The state-run park serves an economically challenged community and hosts more than one million visitors annually. Unfortunately, there is no public access to the Bronx side of the Harlem River because the only historic access in the park to the river is closed. Many park facilities—fields, docks, boat launches, and trails—need significant upgrades. Specific capital needs at the park include acquiring access to the riverfront, developing and improving park facilities, and building trail connections to the New York City greenway system.

The Harlem River is also one of seven pilot sites for the Urban Waters Federal Partnership. The Partnership aims to support river restoration in U.S. cities. On the Harlem River, Interior's NPS and FWS; EPA; the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are assessing ways to both restore the river and increase public access to it.

The state and New York City would like to partner with the federal government on this project to: (1) connect the park to a waterfront greenway and to the historic High Bridge. The High Bridge project would restore the connection between the Bronx and Manhattan for cyclists and pedestrians; (2) work with USDA to develop urban gardens, (3) work with EPA to implement stormwater management infrastructure, and (4) expand opportunities for neighborhood youth to engage in outdoor activities and learn about the outdoors.

Finger Lakes Trail and Water Access Improvements

The Finger Lakes in west-central upstate New York include 11 bodies of water. The lakes are nationally recognized as a unique natural and cultural resource. The lakes and land surrounding them also represent a significant open-space resource next to and accessible from major upstate New York metropolitan areas--like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany. Annually, the lakes receive up to 5 million tourists, who spend some $90 million on hunting, fishing, birding, and recreation. With only a small portion of the lakes accessible to the public, many local governments would like to develop more access points for recreational purposes.

The America's Great Outdoors 50-state report will also include potential action by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In New York, for example, Interior could provide technical and financial support for projects to increase access to the Finger Lakes and to the Harlem River – connecting populated areas with parks, other open space, and lakefronts. Once enough access exists, the Finger Lakes could be designated as a national water trail, attracting more water-based recreation.

Interior could also provide technical and financial support for project elements related to restoration, youth engagement, trail development, and open space acquisition.

The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.

“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head. Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, consensus-based initiatives,” Salazar said.

For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.

To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.


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