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New York State Parks: New grant program connects school children to state lands

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Thu, Oct 20th 2016 06:00 pm

State Parks and DEC facilities to serve as sites for education program

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced New York is offering state grants to public schools throughout the state to fund field trips to state parks and historic sites for environmental, history and physical education programming. Fourth-grade students from Freeport Public Schools joined State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey on Thursday at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center at Jones Beach State Park to highlight the Connect Kids to Parks Transportation grant program.

"Expanding opportunities for our children to spend time in parks and nature is one of the best things we can do to help them build mind and muscle," Harvey said. "By helping state parks and historic sites partner with public schools, Gov. Cuomo is helping to expand our children's horizons in important ways."

Funding for the $500,000 Connect Kids to Parks Transportation Grant program comes from the state Environmental Protection Fund's enhanced environmental justice programming approved in the 2016-17 state budget. The grant is available to kindergarten-12th grade classes in Title 1 public schools. To date, more than 120 schools across the state have applied for the grant.

The grant application is available online at www.nysparks.com and is reviewed on a rolling basis for field trips anytime in the 2016-17 school year. For more information, visit www.nsyparks.com or email [email protected].

State Parks also announced New York will extend the "Connect Kids to Parks" free fourth-grade entry to state parks in 2017. State Parks, as well as day-use areas operated by the Department of Environmental Conservation, accept the National Park Service's Every-Kid-In-A-Park pass upon presentation for vehicle entry into all state parks as long as the fourth-grader is present in the vehicle. The pass will also be accepted at state historic sites for the passholder and up to three adults for house tour fees. Details about the program are available at www.nysparks.com.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Connecting young New Yorkers to the vast natural resources this state has to offer is a truly unique learning experience that could benefit them for years to come. The future protection of our environment depends on young people, and Gov. Cuomo remains committed to getting them involved early."

National Park Service Deputy Director for Congressional and External Relations Denise Ryan said, "The Every Kid in a Park (EKIP) program is encouraging the next generation of outdoor stewards to explore our nation's most spectacular spaces. We are thrilled that (State Parks) shares our passion for wildlife, resources and history. Granting EKIP pass holders free access to New York state parks and providing transportation grants to underserved communities will significantly enhance the opportunities our kids have to go out and experience all of the natural beauty New York has to offer."

To support the administration and operation of the free fourth-grade entry program, the Natural Heritage Trust has secured $300,000 in funding commitments thanks to the generosity of the following: Lucy R. Waletzky, MetLife Foundation, Long Island State Parks Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

There are an estimated 220,000 fourth-graders in New York. Research shows children who interact with nature before age 11 are more likely to have positive attitudes about the natural environment. Many state parks and historic sites have educational programs that serve fourth-grade students. In New York, the grade four social studies core curriculum focuses on civics, community and New York history - making it an ideal school year to visit a New York state park.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 180 state parks and 35 historic sites, which are visited by 65 million people annually. A recent study found New York state parks generate $1.9 billion in economic activity annually and support 20,000 jobs. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit www.nysparks.com, connect on Facebook, or follow on Twitter.

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