Minnewaska State Park’s new $6.1 M visitor center debuts
| Times Herald-Record
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KERHONKSON – Minnewaska State Park Preserve’s new $6.1 million visitor center debuted Friday, just in time to help the park with anecdotal reports of pandemic-driven visitation spikes.
State officials and leaders from the nonprofit Open Space Institute, which provided $3 million in grants and donations toward the project, touted the new 5,400-square-foot building near Minnewaska’s upper parking lot.
The 24,000-acre-plus Minnewaska preserve, New York’s third-largest state park, is “the crown jewel of the state park system,” said Mike Baden, supervisor of the Ulster County Town of Rochester – the town that contains the hamlet of Kerhonkson, where the park is partly based.
Minnewaska is perched atop a 2,000-foot-high escarpment, the Shawangunk Ridge, which runs west from the New Paltz area in Ulster County, through Orange County, all the way to the New Jersey border.
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The preserve’s nearly 500,000 annual park-goers are a major economic driver for Ulster County, helping push the county’s per-year tourist total to a county-estimated 5.3 million visitors. The county’s visitors spent more than $651 million in 2018 (the most recent year of available data), according to Oxford Economics, a research firm.
Besides being known for breathtaking views, Minnewaska includes 35 miles of stone dust carriage roads, 50 miles of trails, lakes, waterfalls and rare ecosystems.
The new single-story visitor center’s art and educational exhibits are designed to teach visitors about the environment, what they’ll see as they explore nature and how to preserve it without disturbing it.
The visitor center includes drinking water for visitors, indoor bathrooms, an outdoor patio area and large windows designed for sunshine to help heat the building year-round.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration released a statement touting the improvements, and how Cuomo’s late father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, helped acquire the land that became Minnewaska – a former resort site – in 1987.
“Parks like Minnewaska have seen an explosion of visitation” during the pandemic, said Eileen Larrabee, spokeswoman for OSI, which has helped protect 13,000-plus acres at the preserve. “The new visitor center is the gateway for people to explore the park and its ecology, as people enjoy a safe place to escape in stressful times.”