A bicyclist rides along the shore of McDonald Pond in...

A bicyclist rides along the shore of McDonald Pond in Hempstead Lake State Park on July 5, 2021. Credit: Jeff Bachner

A fishing pier, observation tower, kayak launch and new, improved trails are all part of a $3.6 million improvement package at Hempstead Lake State Park unveiled Friday by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The improvements are part of what the state says is a $47 million "transformation" of the park, which hosts the largest body of fresh water in Nassau County.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreations and Historic Preservation said the projects were supported by $35 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as $12 million from the office's capital funds. The scheduled improvement projects are part of an ongoing collaboration between state parks, HUD, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The project is part of the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery's $125 million "Living with the Bay" initiative — a series of proposals designed to "increase the resiliency of communities" along Mill River and surrounding South Shore bays by what the governor's office described as mitigating storm surges and managing stormwater to reduce damages from rainstorms.

It also will improve habitat and water quality and increase access to Mill River through educational and increased recreational opportunities. At Hempstead Lake this includes better access through new stairs and handrails, raised crosswalks with solarized flashing stop signs and trails improved not just for walkers and hikers, but also for equestrian riding, state parks officials said.

"The ongoing transformation of Hempstead Lake State Park will help protect Hewlett Bay, reduce flood risk, provide visitors with enhanced recreational opportunities, and educate the next generation of Long Islanders about the environmental challenges facing the region," Hochul said in a statement.

The projects were praised by U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Kathleen Rice, state Sen. Kevin Thomas, state Assemblymember Taylor Darling, state parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid and a host of other officials.

In a statement, Schumer said: "Not only are those funds making the park and surrounding communities more resilient, they are improving public safety and access so more Long Islanders can [take] advantage of all the park has to offer, just in time for summer."

Also in a statement, Gillibrand said: "Hempstead Lake State Park's upgrades will enhance accessibility for Long Island residents, allowing many more visitors to enjoy its scenic green spaces, miles of adventure and healthy recreational activities."

Additional work, including stabilizing the lake dam, installing new sluice gates, improving trails, and adding new drainage culverts, is expected to be completed by December, officials said.

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