For Immediate Release
Dan Keefe, New York State Parks
Riley Johndonnell, Scenic Hudson
500-acre park on former industrial site offers outstanding opportunities for passive recreation, exploring nature
State Parks, PIPC partnering with Scenic Hudson to operate Park, plan additional features
Click here to view photos of the event.
HUDSON VALLEY — New York State Parks, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission and Scenic Hudson announced the opening of Sojourner Truth State Park along the Hudson River shoreline with a Community Earth Day celebration in Ulster County on April 23. Located on 500 acres of former industrial land, this is the first state park in the City of Kingston and the Town of Ulster, and the first new state park to open since July 2019.
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “Under the leadership of Gov. Hochul, New York State is providing a tremendous range of options for people to get outside and reconnect with nature. Today’s celebration gives a wonderful sense of what Sojourner Truth State Park will mean to the community. Ulster County residents and visitors will be enjoying this place of environmental renewal on the Hudson River for generations to come.”
Palisades Interstate Parks Commission Executive Director Joshua Laird said, “We are thrilled to welcome the public to the new Sojourner Truth State Park in the Palisades Region. It is fitting to celebrate Earth Week at the park, a former quarry, where we can already see nature re-emerging to form a beautiful and dramatic landscape overlooking the Hudson River. The Commission is grateful to Governor Hochul, State Parks Commissioner Kulleseid and to Scenic Hudson for their work to open the site to visitors today and in the future.”
Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “Scenic Hudson was among the emerging grassroots groups in the 1960s that mobilized people to protect their environment, setting the stage for the first Earth Day in 1970. Preserving this site, providing an opportunity for the land to heal after more than a century of industrial exploitation, embodies the very ideals of Earth Day. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with the state to provide new connections for visitors to Sojourner Truth State Park’s remarkable natural beauty and history and the inspirational power of the Hudson River.”
In addition to introducing the first features in the new park, the event celebrated the land’s ongoing ecological renewal and a place where all people can benefit from connecting with nature and the outdoors. In the 18th century, prior to its industrial use, the site had been known as the Kingston Commons, dedicated to the shared use of residents. Earlier, small settlements of the Esopus association of Lenape people were located there.
Educational activities at the event highlighted Earth Day and the importance of everyone playing a role in protecting the environment.
The newly enacted 2022-23 budget increased funding for the State Parks by $140 million, for a total of $250 million. This increase will be invested into enhancing and improving New York’s State parks. This substantial level of funding will aid the ongoing transformation of New York’s flagship parks and support critical infrastructure projects throughout the park system. The budget includes $3.5 million to design additional improvements to Sojourner Truth State Park.
New trails connect visitors with dramatic bluff-top, river views
State Parks partnered with the not-for-profit environmental group Scenic Hudson to protect land for this new park that earlier had been slated for a large-scale private development. The park is located in the City of Kingston and the Town of Ulster.
Once the site of cement production, brick making, quarrying, and ice harvesting, the new park currently features two hiking trails created by State Parks that provide access to the river corridor and to a bluff-top overlook offering magnificent views of the river. The park also features the paved Hudson River Brickyard Trail, part of the Empire State Trail and the Kingston Greenline. A project of the city of Kingston, which manages this trail, and Scenic Hudson, it parallels the river and 150-foot limestone cliffs, affording dramatic views of both.
Under an agreement, State Parks, Scenic Hudson, and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission will collaborate on future phases of development at Sojourner Truth State Park. Scenic Hudson, which will operate the park under a five-year agreement, has already held public meetings to learn about community members’ and regional views on the future of the site, will plan for further follow-up with the public in the future.
Park offers excellent opportunities to interpret region’s cultural, industrial history
Last summer, abandoned cement silos and two former structures of the cement industry at the park were removed to improve site safety, as well as to expand areas for future programming and events. Remaining structures, including the chimney and mule barn dating to the site’s brickmaking period, as well as many low-rise structures from the cement industry that are visible from the Hudson River Brickyard Trail, could be interpreted and integrated into the landscape. Former quarry pits on the property have filled with water. While not suitable for swimming, they support fish populations and are breathtaking in their beauty.
The site is a part of the homeland of the Esopus association of Lenape people, who inhabited the area of Kingston until the 1600s, when they were displaced by European colonists. In addition to telling the story of the descendants of today’s Lenape people, the site will allow for the interpretation of industrial history, geology, the resilience of the natural environment, and the significant role of the Hudson Valley in the development of New York State and the nation.
The new park honors African American abolitionist and suffragist Sojourner Truth (1797-1883). Born enslaved in 1797 in Esopus, Ulster County, Isabella “Bomefree” Baumfree freed herself from slavery in 1826, a year before legal enslavement ended in New York. Following her deeply held religious views she traveled as an itinerant preacher, speaking truth to the harsh inequities endured by people of color and women while calling for systemic change. Renaming herself Sojourner Truth, she became one of the nation’s leading voices for abolition and universal suffrage in the mid-19th century.
Barbara Allen, children’s book author and sixth generation grand-daughter of Sojourner Truth, said, “The opening of the Sojourner Truth State Park is a tremendous honor to an extraordinary woman who spent her life in service of others while dealing with her own obstacles and memories of past injustices. My Great Grandma’s spirit, and quest to speak the truth about freedom, equality, and inclusion are still alive and relevant today. Sojourner’s deep and sincere responsibility to her fellow man is what encourages me as a descendant to continue to speak out against injustices as well as write about her vision. When I joined the great people of New York along the mighty Hudson River for the opening of this state park, I brought Sojourner’s spirit that lives on within me, and I passed on this historic moment to her through my eyes.”
Senator Michelle Hinchey said, “The opening of Sojourner Truth State Park is a landmark moment for our community — one that honors the heroism of a prolific abolitionist who lived the first 29 years of her life right here in Ulster County and delivers on our mission to make green spaces equitable and accessible to all New Yorkers. I am deeply proud to have secured state funding to help bring this visionary project to life and I thank Governor Hochul for her continued partnership in transforming this magnificent property into the City of Kingston and Town of Ulster’s first-ever State Park.”
Assemblyman Kevin A. Cahill said, “Sojourner Truth State Park is a snapshot of the history for the Hudson Valley. It was just south of this spot where Sojourner Truth crossed the Rondout every day serving her enslavers. In the 19th and early 20th century this was a brick and cement manufacturing hub employing thousands of people in Kingston. Recognizing the natural beauty of the area, Scenic Hudson and New York State Parks have partnered to ensure this site will allow the public to access our river while respecting the history of those who came before.”
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said, “Ulster County is honored to be the home of another beautiful New York State Park, and proud to be the birthplace of its namesake, Sojourner Truth. On behalf of the residents of Ulster County, I want to thank Governor Hochul and Scenic Hudson for their commitment to repurposing this former industrial property, restoring it to its natural beauty for the enjoyment of all and the protection of our environment, and ensuring the full scope of history of the land is interpreted.”
Kingston Mayor Steve Noble said, “We are thrilled to have a State Park in the City of Kingston which will provide breathtaking views and access to trails and the riverfront previous unavailable to our residents and visitors. We are so proud to have this uniquely beautiful land opened to the public and thank the Governor’s office and Scenic Hudson for all their efforts to preserve this space. Having the park named after Sojourner Truth further shows our commitment to providing equitable access to these precious natural resources for all to enjoy.”
Empire State Development Vice President and Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said, “Sojourner Truth State Park helps to recognize and commemorate the legacy of an equal rights pioneer, and it’s especially fitting to open New York’s newest State Park as part of a Community Earth Day celebration. The new park offers spectacular views of the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains, and complements the state’s other nearby outdoor assets like the Empire State Trail that provide fun and educational opportunities for families. This new park complements any Hudson Valley getaway, where residents and visitors alike can come be a part of it and find what they love.”
Park offers vast benefits to surrounding communities
Sojourner Truth State Park will provide many benefits to surrounding communities. Studies show that greenspaces and trails near urban areas enhance residents’ physical and mental health, contribute to a reduction in childhood obesity, alleviate stress and anxiety, improve air and water quality, and help cool nearby neighborhoods. They also enhance surrounding property values, increase municipal revenue, decrease stormwater treatment costs by providing natural filtration, mitigate crime and vandalism, and provide places for people to gather for community and family celebrations.
Equally important, parks host more variety in plant and animal organisms than almost any other land use. They furnish habitat for pollinators on which many food crops depend and help control pests responsible for human diseases like West Nile Virus and Lyme disease. Higher rates of biodiversity provide critical buffers from natural disasters such as floods and storms. And forests like those protected in Sojourner Truth State Park are the second biggest storehouse of carbon, playing a critical role in confronting the climate crisis.
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails, and boat launches, which were visited by a record 78 million people in 2020. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518.474.0456. Also, connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Scenic Hudson brings together people and organizations to protect the natural resources at the heart of the Hudson Valley’s health and prosperity. Motivated by the beautiful land and extraordinary people of the region, we use our decades of expertise in land preservation, land use, community-based advocacy, and strategic planning to make the valley a better place to live, work, and play for everyone. www.scenichudson.org.