STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.– Staten Island parks, forests and woodlands got a facelift that put a smile on the faces of many Staten Islanders on Thursday.
“This trail is wonderful,” said Greg Perosi, one of more than a dozen Lifestyles for the Disabled participants who came to check out the new universally accessible trail now open at Mount Loretto Unique Area.
Perosi had no trouble getting to the new platform on Mount Loretto Pond, perfect for fishing or taking in the scenic view, despite his wheelchair. The 500 feet of universally accessible trail was just one of many site enhancements throughout Staten Island announced by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday.
“The most exciting part is just being able to provide first-rate access to all of the public,” said Stephen M. Zahn, regional director of Region 2 (New York City) for the DEC. “As you can see today, a lot more people will be able to come out here and no one is excluded.”
Mount Loretto Unique Area, along with North Mount Loretto State Forest, St. Francis Woodlands and Lemon Creek, are the first of DEC’s lands on Staten Island to be upgraded with elements that allow people of all abilities to enjoy recreational opportunities.
Zahn said the projects were funded through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York Works Program and are part of the New York is Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative to improve recreational opportunities and boost tourism.
At Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Zahn announced all of the site enhancements on Staten Island, which include:
Maureen Dreher, health and wellness director for Lifestyles for the Disabled, said she always brought participants of the program to Mount Loretto for recreation but is excited that they will get to fully enjoy the site now.
“There are places to sit and relax…we watch the ships go by and have even seen bald eagles (here),” Dreher said of the park.
Assemblyman Michael Cusick said that Staten Islanders are fortunate to have such wonderful places to enjoy recreational activities.
“One of the greatest things about this borough is the great parklands,” he said, promising to work with DEC and other local elected officials to maintain the improvements.
Deputy Borough President Ed Burke noted that these improvements to statelands should send Staten Islanders the message that conservation is important to state agencies and local elected officials.
“It’s important for Staten Islanders to realize. We’ve done a great job preserving parkland,” Burke said, adding that one-third of Staten Island is made up of parklands.
“This is fantastic,” he said, as he took in the view from the platform on Mount Loretto Pond.
Assemblyman Ron Castorina agreed, noting, “We’ve got this great site and now we have great access.”
“Staten Islanders can come and get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life,” he added.
Also in attendance at the event were representatives of Councilman Steven Matteo’s office and Cuomo’s office.