New York State National Parks and COVID-19; New Windsor Cantonment and Washington’s Headquarters
As New York sits on pause until further notice (currently waiting for May 15th before reopening), many historic parks are looking for the best way to keep on top of their missions. New York State Parks, though leaving many grounds, forests, and trails open, encourage visitors to stay home or stay in their local communities and practice social distancing.
On March 28, 2020, New York State Parks posted a press release to their “Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation” page, encouraging “responsible recreation” during the public health crisis. The release recommends following the CDC guidelines and to participate in local recreations while still protecting themselves. They created a new hashtag, #RecreateLocal, to encourage New Yorkers to get outside and “discover open spaces and parks close to home” as these spaces “can serve as an oasis from stress, fear, and anxiety,” according to DEC Commissioner Seggos.
On April 15th, many facilities and locations have closed, including the public toilets in the parks, until further notice for the safety of their guests. Those that have stayed open are refunding reservations and have reduced parking spaces. They have decided to have the natural spaces to remain open to the public to encourage guests to stay active and to spend time with their household. Officers and staff, among their other responsive duties, also enforce physical distancing on the premises and encourages the visits to be kept short and to avoid crowds and close contact activities.
The New Windsor Cantonment Site Facebook page has been resharing blog posts and has been promoting other organizations’ blogs as well in their community section. As their mission is to tell the story of the Cantonment’s involvement in the Revolutionary War, the posts serve to continue their mission. No events are posted on the Facebook page, however, on parks.ny.org, the New Windsor Cantonment does have an event planned for May 25th, the 18th Century Graveside Ceremony. This event is currently within New York State time frame where businesses can reopen. Based on both websites listed hours of operation, the Cantonment remains open to the public on their normal business hours. The site is secluded on Temple Hill Road in New Windsor, New York, co-habiting with the Purple Heart Hall of Honor, operating under the same hours. Neither site’s Official or Facebook pages have any mention of the crisis and what they are doing.
Washington’s Headquarters, located in Newburgh, NY, has announced on their Facebook page that several of their events have been postponed, including the General’s Lady Program and the Volunteer Fair, and have temporarily suspended the Museum, Hasbrouck House, and Tower of Victory tours. The Facebook also hosts “Gallery Notes,” to offer “a peek into our Museum, and a tidbit of information related to objects in our collection.” On each post and posted document, the site advertises their reduced hours of operations.
New York State Parks, including these two historic sites and many others, I believe are reacting fittingly. The Parks are telling their guests to comply with CDC health regulations in these times, closing down most of their indoor facilities. The Historic sites are continuing to educate their patrons about these historic sites and events through their Facebook posts and in keeping what they can open. I think it is important that the parks and green spaces are remaining open for people to walk through, as getting out during this time is important in many respects. These sites remaining open in a reduced capacity are also important, as education cannot stop even in these dark times, and, in having a digital way to continue educating, they can do this in safe ways.