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Ladders to the Outdoors program to increase access to outdoors at state parks in Niagara and Erie counties

The program is funded with an $860,000 grant to the Natural Heritage Trust from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A new program is underway to increase access to state parks in Western New York.

Ladders to the Outdoors launched on Friday by The Natural Heritage Trust and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to support the development of free youth recreational programs and classes at state parks. Registration is now open for the program.

“Engaging youth in parks and recreation will help to develop a lifelong love of the outdoors. I am so thankful to the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation for recognizing the importance of this and helping us outreach to the most in need communities,” said Erik Kulleseid, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

These classes will focus on activities like guided hikes, fishing, biking, kayaking, swimming and sports activities. Grants will also fund getting gear to make these classes possible. The money will also be used to add accessible play equipment to several state park playgrounds.  

The $860,000 grant will fund the programs for three years. 

"Outdoor recreation not only has a positive impact on health, but also creates a future generation of park and trail users and stewards," said Jim Boyle, Vice President of Programs and Communications at the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. "By removing access barriers to these amenities, we can continue to support healthy and active lifestyles for the youth and families of Western New York."

Transportation to parks will be offered through a partnership with New York State Connect Kids to Parks program.

Those interested in registering should contact Ladders to the Outdoors coordinator, Kejuan.Harmon@parks.ny.gov to learn more about the program and scheduling events.