2024 Statewide Friends Conference

Join Parks & Trails New York for an enriching and engaging two-day Statewide Friends Conference, taking place on October 18-19 at the Gideon Putnam in picturesque Saratoga Springs, NY.

This biennial event, hosted by Parks & Trails New York, in collaboration with the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks), promises an invaluable opportunity for Friends groups to converge, connect, and collaborate. For the first time, we are planning the conference with the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation to ensure our event supports all the organizations that champion our public lands! If you have received a Park and Trail Partnership Grant, or would be eligible to apply, this conference is for you!

Against the backdrop of the NYS Parks Centennial, this conference serves as a moment to reflect on our collective impact and look ahead to initiatives that will shape the next century of our public lands. With a spotlight on public-private partnerships, opportunities to expand accessibility to our parks, and best-practices for grassroots nonprofits, we will chart an exciting course for the future. Attendees will have the chance to glean insights from seasoned professionals, agency partners, and peers alike through innovative sessions and collaboration.  


Conference Agenda

Friday, October 18: Pre-Conference Sessions and Events 

  • Registration opens at 1p

  • Pre-Conference Concurrent Afternoon Sessions (select one) from 2-4p

    • “Getting off the Ground”: Visioning and Planning for new/newly forming groups

      • Hosted by PTNY and State Parks

    • Historic Preservation Standards and Best-Practices for the Next Century

      • Hosted by New York State Historic Preservation

    • Resources for Greenway and Long Trail Champions: Best-practices, and Opportunities 

      • Hosted by PTNY, State Parks, DEC 

  • Happy Hour & Networking hosted by the Leadership Council from 4.30-6p

  • Welcome Reception & Dinner at 6p

Saturday, October 19: Conference Sessions

  • Registration opens at 7a

  • Breakfast begins at 8a 

  • Dual Keynote Presentations at 9a

    • Featured speakers offer their perspectives into the role of Friends groups and public lands stewardship and the connections that can be made to public health and public-private partnerships.

      • Dr. Anjana (AJ) Poonthota, MD, Medical Director of Women and Children's Services for Garnet Health

      • Ross Levi, Executive Director of I Love NY (tentative

  • Morning Breakout Sessions (select one) from 10:30-11:45a

    • Successful and Innovative DEIA Programming to Welcome All NY’ers - A conversation among various organizations advancing programs dedicated to promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, through collaboration.

      • Hosted by State Parks, DEC 

    • Empire State Trail Towns: Connecting Communities to Our Greenways - A presentation and analysis of programming that unites local communities, alternative transportation and economic development.

      • Hosted by PTNY, Friends of the Genesee Valley Greenway 

    • Turning Trials into Triumphs: Embracing Lessons Learned for Success - Organized as a facilitated panel by PTNY, with leaders from State Parks, we will examine 2-3 case studies about the obstacles/challenges Friends groups have encountered and how they overcame organizational challenges through reflection and collaboration.

      • Hosted by PTNY, State Parks, Friends of Thacher State Park

  • Lunch begins at 12p

  • Afternoon Breakout Session (select one) from 1:15-2:30p

    • The Future is Diverse, Equitable, Inclusive and Accessible! - A two-art session outlining best practices, opportunities and examples of projects that will help foster a culture of belonging in our public lands, as well as ways to leverage the Park & Trail Partnership Grant to ignite these initiatives.

      • Hosted by PTNY, State Parks, DEC 

    • NYCON is here for you! - An overview of the many benefits of becoming a New York Council on Nonprofits member through PTNY, including: an overview of resources, webinars, and curated technical assistance provided by NYCON.

      • Hosted by NYCON 

    • Reflecting on the Centennial and Next Century Data - A series of dynamic presentations centered on how to implement a data-driven approach within your organization to better meet the needs of staff, members, donors, and public land-users.

      • Hosted by PTNY, the Open Space Institute, State Parks 

  • An Inter-Agency Panel Discussion: The Future of Partnerships - A panel of staff from our state’s public land agencies share their perspectives about the future of Friends group and partners including: future opportunities, priorities, areas of overlap. This will also include an interactive Q&A component.

    • Hosted by PTNY, State Parks, DEC 

  • Closing Remarks at 4p

  • Conference Concludes at 5p

  • Optional Post-Conference Events:

    • Park tour by Friends of Saratoga Spa at 5p


A limited number of room blocks will be made available to attendees interested in staying overnight on October 18, 2024 at the Gideon Putnam Hotel and the Hilton Garden Inn. For those interested in alternative overnight accommodations, please visit Discover Saratoga