Governor Hochul Unveils NY SWIMS Initiative, Including Major Revamp of Harriman State Park’s Lake Welch Beach in Rockland County

Governor Kathy Hochul has announced the NY SWIMS initiative: New York Statewide Investment In More Swimming, as a key proposal in her 2024 State of the State address. This comprehensive plan includes the much-needed rehabilitation of Lake Welch Beach at Harriman State Park in Rockland County, which has been eagerly awaited by local residents and visitors alike.

NY SWIMS represents the largest state-level investment in swimming facilities since the New Deal era. It aims to address critical public health issues and increase climate resilience, particularly in light of the statistic that drowning is the leading cause of death for children aged 1-4 and the anticipated rise in extreme heat events due to climate change. The initiative will focus on expanding swimming access, especially in underserved communities, and enhancing safety across New York.

The program entails an allocation of $150 million in grants for building new public swimming pools in high-need areas, introducing cutting-edge pool designs, and setting up temporary pop-up pools in urban settings to offer relief during extreme heat waves. A key highlight of this initiative is the partnership with New York City to bring to fruition the +Pool project, a pioneering filtered floating pool concept.

Additionally, NY SWIMS will tackle the critical issue of the statewide lifeguard shortage, enhance swimming instruction, and improve amenities at pools and beaches. To support this, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) will oversee a $60 million grant program for the renovation and construction of pools in neighborhoods that need them most.

A novel $30 million grant program is also part of NY SWIMS, which will fund mobile, pop-up swimming pools. These pools, designed to be movable or temporary, will be positioned in various urban areas, providing cooling and recreational opportunities during hotter summer days.

In conjunction with the New York State Parks Centennial in 2024, Governor Hochul has pledged to revitalize state park facilities. This includes major restoration projects at Harriman State Park’s Lake Welch Beach, Jones Beach East Bathhouse, and Sojourner Truth State Park. These efforts aim to restore the state’s parks to their former glory, expanding recreational resources and access to swimming for communities throughout New York.

To combat the shortage of lifeguards, the state will introduce a grant program to help municipalities cover expenses related to lifeguard compensation. This move is expected to extend operating hours, bolster staffing for swim programs, and widen public access to beaches and pools.

State Parks will significantly increase the availability of water safety instruction programs, more than doubling the number of locations offering such programs from 7 to 17 in 2024, with further expansions planned in the future.

The initiative also includes partnerships with municipalities to locate additional swimming facilities for summer aquatic instruction. The Connect Kids program will assist in transporting students and families to these facilities. Moreover, Governor Hochul has directed SUNY to work with various organizations to boost learn-to-swim opportunities across the state.

Adding to the comprehensive nature of this initiative, Governor Hochul is introducing a pilot program to provide free sunscreen at State Park pools, promoting sun safety and outdoor enjoyment.

NY SWIMS marks a pivotal chapter in the rejuvenation of New York’s swimming facilities and public parks, aiming to make swimming more accessible and safer for all New Yorkers, with a special focus on the revitalization of Lake Welch Beach at Harriman State Park in Rockland County.

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