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NY Comptroller's audit calls for improving accessibility at state parks

The Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park.
Office of NY Gov. Kathy Hochul
The Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park.

A new state audit finds that parks across New York need to make some improvements to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said that state parks generally meet minimum standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but could be significantly improved in terms of accessibility.

DiNapoli’s statement noted that, “The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation recognizes the importance of improving accessibility to the New York State parks system, but must do a better job incorporating this goal into its processes for maintaining and operating its sites, and improve its communications with and responsiveness to the public.”

The audit said that some parks have inaccessible entrances and bathrooms, obstacles on trails and paths, and limited parking for people with disabilities.

Forty parks were reviewed from January 2018 through October 2022, and auditors found nearly two-thirds of them could be improved.

According to the audit, many had incorrect signage, uneven access routes, and few labeled parking spaces.

The audit found some parks had taken steps to improve accessibility. The Comptroller’s office found that some “offered unique amenities,” including Letchworth State Park which had an Autism Nature Trail, featuring sensory stations to help children with autism and all visitors explore nature.

Tom Alworth, Executive Deputy Commissioner for NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, wrote in a response to the audit that his office “agrees with the report’s recommendations” and will conduct a multi-faceted review of its policies, facilities and programs and establish a plan to meet its long-term goals of addressing barriers to accessibility.

This story comes from WXXI's Inclusion Desk, focusing on disabilities and inclusion.

This story includes reporting by WAMC radio in Albany.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.