By Haley Viccaro
ALBANY, NY-- The second annual "I Love My Park Day" will be held throughout the state on Saturday for residents to volunteer and cleanup their local parks.
The goal of the campaign is to enhance the state's parks and raise awareness about historic sites, said Parks & Trails New York, an advocacy group. Improvement efforts include cleaning beaches, gardening, trail restoration and invasive species removal.
"What ever we can do to keep our state parks well maintained the more people will want to come," said Laura DiBetta, director of program and government relations for Parks & Trails. "That is really important for the upstate economy because they really rely on visitors in that area and will bring tourism dollars to those communities."
This year 77 parks and historic sites are registered for the cleanup with about 4,000 anticipated volunteers, DiBetta said. Last year, 40 parks participated and about 2,000 state residents volunteered.
The group said people can sign up online to volunteer at a park.
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Park in Yorktown Heights, Westchester County, took part in the event last year and is registered this year. Park Manager Brian Strasavish said the focus is to continue cleanup after Superstorm Sandy, which devastated parts of the New York City area.
"The park lost more than 200 trees due to the hurricane," Strasavish said. "We will do some litter picking, raking and branch pickup and then we will be planting flowers. We are hoping for about 50 volunteers."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the park in Yorktown Heights last year and assisted with volunteer activities including building picnic tables, planting flowers and cleaning debris and litter, Strasavish said.
"It is great, I did it last year, there is a lot of energy and really nice people," Cuomo said Wednesday during a cabinet meeting at the Capitol. "You talk about sense of community and volunteerism with people just coming out to help cleanup and the sponsorship was great so it was a fun day."
State parks generate $2 billion in economic activity and 20,000 jobs a year, DiBetta said. She said the events and park operations are strengthened because of volunteer efforts and government initiative.
"It's not an amenity, it is important for physical health, spiritual health, well-being, human happiness and certainly it will also drive the economy," said Rose Harvey, commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, at the cabinet meeting.
Parks & Trails said the volunteer program helps to sustain New York's park system legacy. The parks department and the group are organizing the event.
The parks system includes 179 parks and 35 historic sites and is the second most visited park system in the country, the governor's office said. The park system had a record of 60 million visitors in 2012.
"It's the most developed state park system in the country," Harvey said. "Because it's developed, it is an economic engine and we had a record year again last year. In terms of attendance, it keeps rising."
To participate and for a list of parks involved, visit the Parks & Trails New York website at http://www.ptny.org/ilovemypark/about.shtml