By Ryan J. Ferguson
While gathering a handful of broken crayons, Lisa Hayes glanced over to her 3-year-old son. “I don’t think we can color any more pages in this book if we tried buddy.” Entertaining her son in their 1800 sq foot house hasn’t been easy during the Coronavirus pandemic, however parks are encouraging healthy New Yorkers to enjoy the outdoors.
As of March 16, New York State waived all park fees in state, local and county parks. “Keeping Fin busy is difficult, he’s adventurous, I’m glad I can take him to as many parks for free during this time,” Hayes, who lives in Manorville, said.
The New York State Parks official website continues to offer updated information in regards to COVID-19. At this time, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation along with the State Department of Environmental Conservation released a statement March 31 encouraging New Yorkers to, “recreate locally, practice social distancing, and use common sense to protect themselves and others.”
The message from Governor Cuomo and state health officials to all New Yorkers has been to stay home as much as possible, maintaining a social distance of at least six feet to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Those that don’t pose a risk of spreading the virus are encouraged to head outdoors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department of Health advised, If you are sick, feeling or showing signs of any COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, coughing and/or troubled breathing, stay home.
“We understand the difficulties families face to keep children busy, our grounds remain open, however the Manor House and Hidden Oak Cafe are temporarily closed,” Kristen Cella, Office Manager of the Bayard Cutting Arboretum, said on March 21. Across New York State, nature centers, visitor centers, and historic houses, have been closed to the public during the outbreak, however grounds remain open.
There are 180 state parks located across New York from the shores of Long Island to Niagara Falls. On March 14, the New York State Parks official Twitter released a statement: “At this time, NY State Parks are open and welcoming visitors during regular operating hours. However, some events and programs may be postponed or canceled. For specific program information, please contact the individual park office directly. Thank you.”
At the Connetquot River State Park, one of the last events to take place, prior to all the cancellations following COVID-19 was a restoration project of a stained-glass transom window. On March 30, the Office of Parks stated, “due to the global health crisis, all campgrounds, cabins, cottages, and pavilions/shelters are closed to visitation through April 30.” As most events take place in the main house at the Connetquot River State Park, most community activities and events have been canceled or postponed.
In February, Friends of Connetquot, a community-based group worked together to raise money and restore the 8-foot-long window in the main house, once known as the Southside Sportsmen Club. Made up of green and peach machine-wheeled glass, it offers guests a piece of history. Lisa Hayes brought her son Fin there.
“We may never know the windows creator, but that’s part of the charm,” Ginny Fields, chairwoman of Friends of Connetquot said. There is an intriguing possibility that Louis Comfort Tiffany, whose father founded the eponymous jewelry store and who was renowned for his Art Nouveau stained-glass windows, belonged to the club when the window first was installed around 130 years ago. Tiffany built his North Shore palace in the Art Nouveau style that featured a similar style to the Connetquot window.
The Coronavirus Pandemic led to several cancellations of future events that Friends of Connetquot would have hosted. The next main project is to restore the old mill house. Until the virus subsides, community-based events will be postponed. However, grounds remain open at the parks and adventure awaits.