Preliminary Guide to Environmental Sources
Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Current Functions. The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation promotes recreation and administers State parks, recreation facilities, and historic sites. It administers 146 State parks in eleven State park regions (a twelfth region comprised by the Adirondack and Catskill parks is run by the Department of Environmental Conservation), and thirty-four State historic sites. Each region is supervised by a regional park, recreation, and historic preservation commission that serves as a liaison with the office. Many historic sites also have local governing boards that are under the supervision of the office. The office also licenses operators of passenger boats and conducts recreation safety training.
Organizational History. Early State park and recreation policies were closely related to conservation efforts. A Temporary State Park Commission, established in 1872 (Chapter 848) to study the feasibility of forming a public park in the "timbered regions" of the Adirondack Mountains, rejected a proposal to create a park for recreational purposes but recommended preservation of the land and timber resources. No action was taken until 1884, when the legislature directed the comptroller to establish a committee to formulate a plan for forest preservation. This committee's recommendations led in 1885 (Chapter 283) to the establishment of the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves administered by a Forest Commission. This commission was abolished in 1895 and its functions transferred to the Fisheries, Game, and Forest Commission. This in turn was superseded in 1900 by the Forest, Fish, and Game Commission, which in 1911 became the Conservation Commission, existing until the constitutional reorganization of 1925. In addition to responsibility for the forest preserve lands (which were also known as the Adirondack and Catskill parks), the Conservation Commission or its predecessors administered several parks and reservations assigned by law to its jurisdiction, beginning with the State Reservation on the Saint Lawrence in 1896.
Other parks and reservations as well as a number of historic sites and structures were established by law between 1885 and 1925. Each was administered by an independent or regional board of commissioners or trustees. In 1924 (Chapter 189) the State Council of Parks was established as a central advisory agency for all parks, reservations, and places of historic and scenic interest that were not under the authority of the Conservation Commission. The council, consisting of the conservation commissioner, State museum director, and the heads of ten park and recreation boards, developed plans for a uniform park policy and acted as a clearinghouse for information on park planning.
In 1926 (Chapter 619), as a result of the constitutional reorganization of State government, jurisdiction of all parks, reservations, and historic sites was centralized in the Conservation Department, Division of Parks. The Council of Parks was continued but placed under the jurisdiction of the conservation commissioner. In addition to its previous advisory and planning functions, the council was empowered to recommend construction or improvement of State and county highways to facilitate public access to recreational areas.
In 1944 (Chapter 603), supervision of twenty-seven historic sites was transferred from the Conservation Department to the State Education Department. Administration of these sites was returned to the Conservation Department in 1966 (Chapter 816) with the creation within that agency of the New York State Historic Trust, a seven-member body composed of four gubernatorial appointees plus the commissioner of education, director of the Council on the Arts, and chairman of the Council of Parks. The director of the Division of State Parks acted as executive secretary of the trust. The Education Department continued to provide advisory services on the operation of the sites.
When the Conservation Department was reorganized as the Department of Environmental Conservation in 1970 (Chapter 140), its Division of State Parks was abolished. All duties and functions relating to parks (except the Adirondack and Catskill preserves), recreation areas, and historic sites were transferred to the newly created Office of Parks and Recreation. A Council of Parks and Recreation and a Historic Trust were reconstituted under administrative jurisdiction of the commissioner of the new office. In 1972 (Chapter 660), a recodified parks and recreation law established centralized management of all parks for the first time, with eleven regional park commissions retaining a local supervisory role. The Council of Parks and Recreation was also continued as an advisory body, and the State Board for Historic Preservation succeeded the Historic Trust in an advisory capacity.
In 1977 an Urban Cultural Parks Advisory Council was created and charged with developing plans for a statewide system of urban cultural parks. This council, whose membership was subsequently increased to nineteen, consists of a combination of agency heads and gubernatorial appointees chaired by the commissioner of parks, recreation and historic preservation.
The office was renamed Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in 1981 (Chapter 679). At the same time the State Council of Parks was renamed the State Council of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
HUDSON RIVER VALLEY COMMISSION
|A1115||Correspondence and subject files, 1965-1979.
12 cu. ft.
Current Functions. This commission was established to protect, preserve, and develop the scenic, historic, recreational, and natural resources of the St. Lawrence River and eastern Lake Ontario region. The commission carries out this mission by assisting in the development of land-use plans, conducting project reviews, and preparing informational materials on the region.
Organizational History. The commission was established in 1969 (Chapter 394). In 1971 (Chapter 74), the commission was continued in the Office of Planning Services. It was reestablished as an independent commission in 1974 (Chapter 701) with a mandate to complete a comprehensive development plan for the St. Lawrence and eastern Lake Ontario region by 1977. In 1977 (Chapter 648), the commission was relieved of the responsibility of completing a comprehensive plan and was authorized to prepare a coastal-management program for the region for submission to the governor and legislature.
The commission is comprised of the commissioner of environmental conservation; the secretary of state; the commissioner of economic development; and fourteen members appointed by the governor, twelve of whom must be residents of the counties under the commission's jurisdiction and two who reside outside the commission's jurisdiction.
ST. LAWRENCE-EASTERN ONTARIO COMMISSION
|General Agency-level Records|
|13405||Project review files, 1970-1994.
33 cu. ft., containing ca. 245 maps