You can say a lot about New York State, but one thing you can't say is that it is short on parks.
The Empire State has almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to beautiful green space. From the Adirondacks to Letchworth, there are 178 State Parks across New York, with each one having its own unique features.
While the larger parks are often magnificent in their grandeur, it is often the smaller ones that are most fascinating, and all the more satisfying because you feel as if you've just uncovered a hidden treasure. A case in point is Knox Farm State Park, a 600 acre gem nestled gently in the hills of East Aurora.
Seymour Knox IV is the President of Friends Of Knox Farm State Park. "It's a wonderful place to be. It's very pastoral, it's very, sort of healing...you're out in nature. It has beautiful vistas, there's a lot of trails you can walk, and there's a lot of wildlife out here."
The park is a study in contrasts. The mansion, stables, and other buildings left from the Knox family estate eventually surrender to 400 acres of verdant grasslands and then to a stately forest, and even an unexpected waterfall!
Knox Farm was recently named as one the state's 'Seven To Save' program, a designation that will go far to ensure the park's future.
"Probably the most important thing would be getting a master plan and a strategic plan about where we want to go moving forward, and then trying to rescue a number of the 21 buildings that are here," says Knox. "The future of the park is very very bright. It gives us much more exposure for the park, certainly statewide."
Less than an hour to the west of Knox Farm, Evangola State Park shows just how quickly and dramatically the landscape in Western New York transforms.
Here the land is framed by the soaring cliffs of Lake Erie. And those who do know of the park probably do so for its beautiful beach.
But Evangola has more than its share of fascinating features. Miles of quiet trails weave through the park, where the focus changes from the vast lake, to smaller aquatic environments, and a chance to observe the minutiae of life.
Dave McQuay, Environmental Educator at Evangola, is quite familiar with the park.
"The trail system will surprise you, it goes by a lot of forested and vernal pool wetland areas," says McQuay. "One of the wetlands we have here is called Vernal Pools. It's a snow melt and spring rain puddle in the forest, it's crystal clear. It's a great place where a lot of our amphibians, our Wood Frogs, Spring Peepers, (and) Blue Spotted Salamanders, come and breed."
The 733 acre park has its own unique history, the land having once been sprawling farmland abundant with tomatoes, beans, and corn.
In the early 20th century it served as a YWCA youth camp, and the state park was established in 1954. Since then Evangola has thrived as one the regions most beautiful, if little known, waterfront destinations.
"Its grown since then, and developed a trail system," says McQuay. "It's developed a larger campground which I think opened in 1969, and a disc golf course, so there's a lot more that people can do now since its been slowly developed over the years."
Though these two parks are quite different, they do have one thing in common, a need for volunteers to help care for them.
With funding on the decline for the state's parks, now is a prime time for park lovers to pitch in, and there's a great chance to do so very soon.
The first annual "I Love My Parks Day" is happening Saturday, May 5th, at parks across the state. And there's no better way to give back to the parks that help make life in New York so rich.
"The stewardship of the park that they come and enjoy is important to come and make the park look better," says McQuay. "Of course, everybody knows that there's been less money for the state of New York to spend at different parks, and this really helps us improve the appearance of the park."
"It's a way to give back to the community, you're helping clean up the park, which a lot of people use, and, as you can see, we've got great vistas, great trails; what's not to love about that? "
If you're interested in volunteering for either of these two parks, or any of the other parks taking part, you can find out more about the event, which takes place Saturday, May 5th, at the New York Parks website: http://nysparks.com/events/my-park-day.aspx