Assemblywoman wants state to promote St. Lawrence River after last year's tourist season hit by flooding
Monday, March 5, 2018 - 5:39 pm

Assemblywoman Addie Jenne is calling on the state to promote the St. Lawrence River and Thousand Islands region as the area works to recover last year's tourism season that was marred by high water levels.

The commissioner of the state's Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation assured Jenne that all necessary repairs have been made to state parks on the St. Lawrence River impacted by flooding last spring and summer.

Commissioner Rose Harvey, speaking at a legislative budget hearing in Albany last week, said the work had been completed.

Jenne said one of the major issues that had faced St. Lawrence River communities last summer was many docks were underwater.

"I expect water levels will be higher than we considered normal forever," she asked, questioning the commissioner about whether state parks crews had taken that into consideration when they were making improvements and repairs over the last several months.

"With all of our capital improvements, we are trying to look at rising waters, climate change and whatever and think about adjusting for the future," Harvey responded.

She had previously testified her agency had spent approximately $2 million since last year's flooding to make repairs to state parks following a question about flooding on Lake Ontario.

The commissioner said most of the funding has been spent at the Fort Niagara and Sandy Island state parks along Lake Ontario with smaller amounts spent on repairs to docks and boat launches throughout the system in the areas impacted by flooding.

She pointed out state parks are often the first line of defense when there is flooding on the lakes and rivers in the state.

"We took most of the brunt. We spent that $2 million to fix up and restore, and we will invest more. They are back in shape. We opened most of our parks last summer, and we're ready to open this summer," the commissioner said.

Harvey said much of that money had been spent at two parks hit hard by last year's flooding.

Jenne also urged the state to use tourism dollars to support the Thousand Islands Region as it works to recover from lost revenues related to the flooding.

"It would be cool if the Thousand Islands Region could get a shout out to make sure everybody knows we are open for business," she said. "We often get the short end of the advertising dollars. While we don't have the state's population base, we certainly do host the state during the summer months. It would be good for everyone to know the Thousand Islands Region is open for business.”

Harvey pledged to look into the issue.

"We tap mightily in to I Love New York. We should talk to them. That's a good idea," the parks commissioner said.

Jenne said the state should also look at investing in the trail system on the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence in the North Country.

The governor had announced plans for the Empire State Trail last year as part of an effort aimed at enhancing outdoor recreation, community vitality and tourism development.

The plan calls for a continuous 750-mile route spanning the state from New York City through the Adirondack to Canada and Buffalo to Albany, creating the longest multi-use state trail in the nation by 2020.

Harvey had said a trail system network on Long Island would be included in a second phase of the Empire State Trail plan.

Jenne has long noted cyclists from the provinces of Quebec and Ontario have expressed an interest in a formal trail system allowing them to travel both sides of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

"My area hosts a lot of cyclists. It would be great if we were included in a phase II, certainly if not in phase II than in phase III, investments in the trail system. Our chambers of commerce in our area try to market our existing trail system, but that work would be enhanced if we could be included in the state's trail system," Jenne said.