For the Love of State Parks

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

~ John Muir ~


As the young girl at the park entrance scanned my card, she politely stated, “I’m sorry mister, but your card expired.” I quickly realized I forgot to renew my New York State Empire Pass at the end of 2018. The annual renewal process formerly took place in March of each year. However, since the State transitioned from a window sticker to an ID card, the renewal period changed as well. Unfortunately for me, I’m a creature of habit to a certain extent and I can’t seem to get on-board with the new time frame.

So, it was back to the house to log into my New York State Parks account and pony up $75 for 2019.

This gem of a card is now transferable between vehicles. Gone are the days of separate registration for each car. This always seemed a bit silly to me as there is often more than one person in your family would like to join you for a walk, hike or bike ride. Thus, you had to consciously take the vehicle with the sticker in the window to avoid the $8 daily parking fee.


State parks are truly magnificent - a real treasure. Thank goodness for forward thinking individuals like Edward Harriman and Robert Moses. In New York State alone, there is a plethora of parks, beaches, golf courses, etc, at your disposal. Your Empire Pass affords you access to any one of these locations. Here are a few NYS facts & figures:

  • 350,000 acres of public land

  • 215 State Parks

  • 67 developed beaches

  • 35 swimming pools

  • 27 marinas

  • 40 boat launch sites

  • 28 golf courses

From a photographers perspective, this represents a gold mine of opportunity. New York State has everything from beaches to mountains to skyscrapers. Whether you choose a day at Jones Beach, Lake Ontario or White Face Mountain, you have plenty of choices. Believe you me, there will never be a shortage of splendid scenery.


Photographers can sometimes be a fickle lot and feel exotic travel destinations are the key to good imagery. It’s as though anything new will automatically ignite your inner Monet. This is soooo far from the truth it’s comical. New places can certainly be invigorating, but good photography starts with you and your personal vision. Opening your eyes to opportunity and seeing what is being presented to you is key. We’ve all heard the expression, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Often times, the opposite is true with photography and you’ll have to “Believe it to see it.”


One of my all-time favorite parks is right down the street from where I live - Rockland Lake State Park. The 1,333 acre park includes a four mile lake, bike trail, large pool, two 18 hole golf courses and plenty of room to move. It’s a peaceful oasis for locals and a weekend getaway for NYC folks as it’s only 45 minutes north of Manhattan.

Four seasons provide a splendor of photographic differentiation and an endless amount of possibilities. The park is so close to me, I could walk or bike ride to the main entrance. However, transporting a camera, a few lenses and a tripod is more convenient in the car. Hence, the park pass!


So, if you’re not a frequent user of your State park system, it may be time for a second look. However, if you’re a regular like myself, every visit is a true blessing and full of endless wonder.

Until next time…