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 more public schools.
The Friends launched Learning in the Parks in 2018, bringing all fourth graders in the Nyack School District to Hook Mountain and Nyack Beach State Park to explore the special geology of the Palisades Sill, the unique ecosystem of the Hudson River Estuary, and local trailside ecology. Science educators introduced the students to these local parks through hands-on activities that took place at the respective schools, followed by a trip to the parks where the fourth graders explored educational stations that showed students real-world science, stewardship, and how much fun it is to spend time outdoors. The pilot program was a huge hit with students, teachers, and administrators and was subsequently added to the district budget as an annual program.
Since 2018, nearly 500 Nyack District fourth graders, most of whom had never been to these parks, discovered what natural spaces have to offer. Some were awed by the towering cliffs, amazed by the variety of fish in the Hudson River Estuary, or calmed by the concentration of using all of their senses to detect life in the woods. Nyack High School students also volunteered to help our scientists and educators, experiencing possibilities for careers in environmental science.
The value of connecting to nature and learning through hands-on, placed-based experiences is well established in educational and psychological literature. The engagement and excitement expressed by students who have participated in Learning in the Parks speaks volumes. As one student said: “It was the best trip out of all the trips from kindergarten to third grade!” And teachers are equally enthusiastic: “The difference between the pre and post [student] assessment was true evidence of all the learning that took place on this trip! I hope Learning in the Parks is a yearly event for the fourth grade students.”
In 2020, The Friends of Rockland Lake & Hook Mountain received a $45,000 grant to expand “Learning in the Parks” to more schools, including to all fourth graders of the South Orangetown School District! The Learning in the Parks expansion was supported with funding from the NYS Park and Trail Partnership Grants and New York’s Environmental Protection Fund. Park and Trail Partnership Grants are administered by Parks & Trails New York, in partnership with the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
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.