What We Do
Connect Local Schools With Local Parks
The Friends created an innovative program, "Learning in the Parks", to connect public school students with Hook Mountain and Nyack Beach State Park. The Friends provided seed funding to pilot this initiative in 2018, with the goals of:
Demonstrating the value of the program;
Incorporating the program as a permanent component within the Nyack District STEM curriculum; and then,
Expanding this experiential outdoor learning model to include more public schools.
Outdoor Science On Hook Mountain Program
The first phase of the program, which launched in June 2018, brought third grade students from each of the three Nyack District elementary schools into their respective schoolyards to experience a microcosm of the local state park system. After a visual introduction in their classrooms, students went outside to actively explore features of the parks represented by four stations: geology, local botany, basic orienteering, and zoology (with live animals).
The second phase of the program involved school field trips to Hook Mountain and Nyack Beach State Park with hundreds of fourth graders from each of the local elementary schools (the same cohort of students that as third graders participated in the first phase of the program). During the field trip, the students hiked to different educational stations situated within the park:
The Palisades Sill plateau, to study its unique geological makeup and examine properties of rocks found there.
The switchback trail, to learn about responsible usage of trails and park resources, environmental stewardship, local plants, trees, and animals, and how to closely observe our surroundings.
The Hudson River Estuary, to identify fish and other river life using seining nets and fish identification keys.
Experts and educators facilitated interactive discussions and activities, including scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
The students received an unforgettable introduction to stewardship of natural places and the rich history of the parks. Most students had never visited these parks even though these parks are in “their backyard” within a short distance from each elementary school.
Due to the success of the pilot program, this initiative has been adopted by and continues in the Nyack School District. We look forward to many more years of great collaboration with the Nyack School District and are now in the process of trying to expand "Learning in the Parks" to more schools!
NOTE: In the fall of 2019, the Outdoor Science Alliance ("OSA") merged into the Friends of Rockland Lake & Hook Mountain to become the educational arm of our organization.
Protect Our Parks
Marydell Land Acquisition & Conservation Easement
Locally known as the “Marydell Property”, since 1924 the Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Doctrine have owned the picturesque acreage at the southern base of Hook Mountain. The Marydell acreage provides the only southern public access point to the top of Hook Mountain.
The Friends played a critical role in the effort to protect these 40 acres at the base of Hook Mountain, working closely with the Trust for Public Land and other parties. Thirty acres were acquired and have been incorporated into the adjacent Hook Mountain and Nyack Beach State Park. In addition, the Friends now hold a conservation easement and a right of first refusal over the 10 acres that remain as private property.
For five years, the Friends helped to raise awareness and financial support for this conservation project through its “Protect Hook Mountain” campaign. The Friends also helped to negotiate and structure the overall transaction.
The Marydell land acquisition ultimately will better integrate the parks, by enabling the creation of a full loop hiking trail to directly link the Long Path and the top of Hook Mountain with the Nyack Beach State Park river trail.
Improve Our Parks
New Trails & Signage
Because of the Marydell land acquisition, it is now possible to create new hiking trails to better integrate the park system. Working with various partners such as the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, the Friends is creating new hiking trails within these parks to directly link the Long Path and the top of Hook Mountain with the Nyack Beach State Park river trail. With the creation of these new hiking trails, visitors will be able to access the top of Hook Mountain from the south and the Hudson river trail in Nyack Beach State Park without walking along public streets or on private property. This should make for a safer and more enjoyable visitor experience.
Thanks to a collaboration with the Scouts, the Friends installed a new kiosk with educational information and signage in Nyack Beach State Park. This kiosk will serve as an important source of information especially with the opening of the new hiking trails. Updated trail maps will be posted at the kiosk.
Nature hikes and maple syrup tapping, led by board member Bob Stien.