State Unveils the Designs for a New Observation Viewing Tower in City Of Utica
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the launch of I BIRD NY, an initiative to build on increasing access to the state's vast natural resources and promote low-cost opportunities to explore the great outdoors and connect with nature. The program launch took place at the Utica Marsh Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Oneida County where DEC unveiled recent improvements at the marsh and the designs for a new observation viewing tower.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Birding is a sport that can be enjoyed by New Yorkers of any age and ability, no matter where they live. With I BIRD NY, it's now easier than ever to get outside and enjoy bird watching. I encourage residents and visitors alike to take a trip and connect with nature and experience some of the prime bird watching areas that are true natural treasures to the state."
From Montauk to Buffalo, New York is home to a vast array of habitat that supports more than 450 different bird species. Bird watching is one of the fastest growing outdoor recreational activities that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and experiences in any community.
The need for outdoor recreation has never been greater. Childhood obesity has doubled over the past 20 years and the average American child spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen according to Putting Family First.org.
Accessible state lands, parks, and facilities can promote physical activity, an important element of overall wellness. These assets provide low-cost opportunities to explore the great outdoors and to connect with nature. As announced under the 2017 State of the State, the I BIRD NY program is one of several initiatives aimed at ensuring New Yorkers have access to green spaces, including focus on unique opportunities close to urban and suburban areas.
State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, "New York State Parks offers rich natural habitats for interesting and unique birds. As birding programs and events continue to grow in popularity, I BIRD NY will look to enhance these resources for public enjoyment today and into the future."
Today's announcement comes on the heels of International Migratory Bird Day, a day to celebrate the importance of stopover sites and their habitats to birds migrating between their nesting and wintering sites.
The announcement was made at the Utica Marsh WMA, a unique urban wetland in Oneida County. The mixture of cattail wetlands, wet meadows, open water pools and flooded willows create a diverse marsh habitat that harbors a tremendous variety of plants and animals, especially birds.
State Senator Joseph Griffo said, "Seated at the foot of the Adirondacks, the Mohawk Valley is fortunate to have many serene locations like the Utica Marsh that allow the public to really enjoy the exceptional beauty and natural diversity of our region. By enhancing the Utica Marsh, the state's I BIRD NY initiative will provide greater access and opportunity for people to explore and experience all of the wonder that our birds and wildlife have to offer, right in our own backyard."
"The Utica Marsh has long been recognized as one of the state's best locations for birding. The new enhancements to the marsh, including an observation tower, will encourage visitors and local residents to visit this unique natural resource, and observe the amazing diversity of birds and other wildlife that are found just a short distance from downtown Utica," said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica.
DEC recently completed the rehabilitation and enhancement of 75 percent of the one-mile trail, including the removal of several old structures, created a secondary overlook/observation area, formalized the new kiosk access and added interpretive signage at Utica Marsh WMA as part of this overall project. Designs for a new wildlife observation tower were also unveiled. A first and second view of the platform is available on DEC's website. The tower is expected to be open to the public in September.
Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri said "The Utica Marsh is a tremendous quality of life asset to enjoy as DEC's construction of the trail and future observation tower will provide residents better year round access to viewing wildlife and seasonal fishing. These types of recreational amenities are family friendly and are also a valuable part of the city's revitalization efforts. I thank the DEC for their continued support and partnership."
"We're proud to partner in this effort as the Erie Canalway is a popular destination for birders," said Brian U. Stratton, New York State Canal Corporation director. "Blue herons, bald eagles and kingfishers are among the many birds users of the Erie Canal and the Canalway trail often see."
As part of I BIRD NY, the state launched a website portal, I Bird NY, with information on where and how to bird watch, including upcoming bird walks and additional resources. I BIRD NY also provides:
- A new I BIRD NY kids booklet available at DEC Environmental Education Centers and official I BIRD NY bird walks and other events.
- The launch of an I BIRD NY Beginners Birding Challenge open to kids 16 and younger through August 31. All participants will receive a completion certificate and be entered to win birding accessories.
- I BIRD NY walks hosted by DEC and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will be held throughout the year.
- Improved signage will be coming to priority Bird Conservation Areas near urban and suburban areas to better identify the opportunities for the public to bird watch. There are 59 Bird Conservation Areas across the state.
"Audubon New York applauds Governor Cuomo and the NYSDEC on launching the I BIRD NY campaign as a wonderful way to connect families to nature and help foster the next generation of conservation leaders," said Audubon New York Director of Strategic Communications, Claudette Thornton. "We look forward to continue working with them on introducing more New Yorkers to the wonders of birding through our statewide network of nature centers, sanctuaries, and local Audubon chapter programs."
More information on I BIRD NY, including the Kids Beginners Birding Challenge, can be found online.