With the desire to raise increased awareness of the Commission and its work to protect open space and offer recreation and education programs as well as to improve our facilities, the Palisades Parks Conservancy was created with the following mission:
"This corporation is established exclusively for charitable objectives to receive and maintain funds and apply such funds for the improvement of and activities in the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, and for the purposes of promoting and expanding the preservation of natural, historical, and cultural resources in the Park for the benefit of the public."
History of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission
The Palisades Interstate Park Commission is among the oldest and most successful public/private partnerships in the nation. A federally chartered bi-state system with jurisdiction over 20 state parks and eight historic sites, the Commission is comprised of five commissioners from New York and five commissioners from New Jersey, each appointed by that state's governor to staggered five-year terms. Preservation, education, and recreation form the core of the Commission's services. Since its inception in 1900, more than 110,000 acres of forest, wildlife habitats, and cultural resources in New York and New Jersey have been entrusted to us. We greet more than nine million visitors each year.
"Palisades," as our holdings are collectively known, was born in reaction to the relentless quarrying of the Palisades cliffs. The defacement of the Palisades appalled its neighbors, including New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt and New Jersey Governor Foster Voorhees, who together charged ten citizens with the responsibility of assembling lands to save the scenic cliffs, thus creating the Palisades Interstate Park Commission that shaped the Park throughout the 20th Century and now into the 21st..
The Palisades Interstate Park Commission has always depended on individuals as well as public funds for financial support to meet our mission to promote and expand the preservation of natural, historical, and cultural resources. These donations enable us to conserve and protect open space and wildlife habitats, improve facilities and enhance programs and services for our visitors. Today, our need is greater than ever.
The unwavering backing of benefactors has been critical in almost every major Park undertaking since then: the first 10,000 acres of today's Harriman State Park were donated (along with $1 million) by Mary Harriman in 1910; the Palisades Interstate Parkway became possible when the Rockefeller family, in the 1930s, donated key parcels for the project; dozens of citizens' groups raised the funds necessary to purchase High Tor in 1943; Archer Huntington donated land adjacent to Little Tor the same year; in 1998, the lands that form Sterling Forest State Park were purchased, in part, with funds from private land trusts such as Scenic Hudson and the Open Space Institute; the visitor center at Sterling Forest was completed in 2003 thanks to a generous gift from U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey.
There is so much more to do! Unfortunately, though, following the funding trend of the past 50 years for both national and state parks, government allocations for Palisades Interstate Park Commission have been drastically reduced. Although our responsibility continues to be to conserve open space, protect our natural and cultural resources, and provide recreation to millions, we are doing and working with less financial resources. For example, Palisades has a list of deferred maintenance projects that exceeds $25 million, due to the lack of funding for capital projects and rehabilitation.
The Park has evolved, and our founding mission of protecting the Palisades cliffs has also evolved into a much broader program. Today's PIPC offers a wide array of recreational facilities, from boat launches and beaches to golf courses and campgrounds. The Commission also manages eight historic sites, among them New York's Washington's Headquarters State Historic Site, the first publicly-owned historic house in the nation, and Fort Lee Historic Park in New Jersey.
That evolution has not altered our basic philosophy, however. We still protect land to preserve its beauty and provide recreational opportunities in order to promote contact with nature. We still preserve historic sites to share our heritage. In other words, we are, more than ever, stewards for the public.
A lot has been accomplished since 1900.
But stewardship is a task that never ends. That's what keeps us going. And, we know, that's what keeps you giving. Thank you for your support.
- First interstate institution formed solely for the conservation of scenic features (1900)
- First nature and science education museum (1920)
- First nature trail (1925)
- First government-sponsored historic site, Washington's Headquarters State Historic Site located in Newburgh, NY (1850)
- First section of the Appalachian Trail was blazed in Harriman State Park (1923)
- First system of organized group camping (1906)
- First scenic " highway" - the Henry Hudson Drive - that meanders along the New Jersey shore below the Palisades cliffs (construction begun in 1912)
- Most visited park system in the East, with more than five million visitors annually by 1925
- Ratified by an Act of U. S. Congress in 1937
The Palisades Parks Conservancy, the charitable partner of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, is a non-profit corporation exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Membership is welcome. Donations are tax-deductible. Contributions should be sent to:
The Palisades Parks Conservancy
3006 Seven Lakes Drive
P.O. Box 427
Bear Mountain, NY 10911.