Big Improvements at New York’s Largest State Park
By Alicia Dziak
There are big things happening at Allegany State Park, and to the thousands of people who think of it as a second home, you won’t want to miss any of them this season!
At over 65,000 acres, Allegany State Park is the largest state park in New York. It’s made up of two sides: Red House, which is closer to Salamanca and is known for its beautiful Administration building overlooking the bustling Red House Lake; and Quaker, boasting the serene Quaker Lake and rural beauty. Both sides are accessible from I-86, and connect to one another within the park limits.
When you enter the park’s Quaker area for the first time this season, you’ll notice a brand-new “Bathhouse” overlooking Quaker Lake, where the former bathhouse, built in 1970, once stood. The old structure was torn down last fall, and construction on the new building began soon afterwards.
“The new bathhouse consists of one wing with lifeguard, first aid, storage and snack bar areas with another for restrooms including a men’s group bathroom, women’s group bathroom, and two family restrooms,” explained park manager Tom Livak. “The new bathhouse will include a third section in the middle of the building that includes a multi-purpose room which will be used for interpretive & nature lectures and Friends Group meetings and programs, staff training and private events. The total footprint of the new building is just over 10,000 square feet which is about 1,500 square feet larger than the original building. Along the exterior of the building we’ve added three exterior shower towers for patrons to rinse off, new cluster seating and all new playground structures.”
According to John Marino, Owner/General Manager of J-Con Parks, which operates all retail space within the park, the year-round event room will be rentable through the park’s rental office.
The event space will feature “a fireplace on one side and plenty of glass to show off the view of Quaker lake,” Marino said, adding that “the location will be perfect for weddings, rehearsal dinners, company functions and private parties. It’s our hope that it will attract many future weddings.”
The building will feature a large kitchen and seating to accommodate such groups.
“We’re developing a large kitchen in anticipation of future growth for catering,” Marino explained. “We are beginning to work in partnership with Dina’s of Ellicottville on this new growth area of our food service within the park. Dina and her staff have a great reputation and I thought, what better way to jump start my catering opportunities in the park than join forces with a local catering business that has done it for a long time?”
The new bathhouse will also boast a snack bar for beach-goers. “We will still have all the staples — ice cream, burgers and fries — but are hoping to expand our menu with more healthy options,” Marino said.
“The total cost of the Quaker Bathhouse project was $4,031,000,” stated park manager Tom Livak. “The breakdown of funding includes $2,250,000 of NY Parks 2020 funding, $1,750,000 which was provided by the LWCF (Land and Water Conservation Fund) and an additional $31,000 that was provided by the Allegany Region. The project is accomplished via four prime contracts awarded to an electrical, mechanical, plumbing and general contractor. Each of those primes uses numerous subcontractors as needed.”
To make the Lake’s beach even more fun for the younger set, there is a new playground. Other improvements include new sidewalks and landscaping and, according to Marino, “a new boat rental operation on Quaker Lake may be introduced in the future.”
In addition, “The lower parking lot will receive new LED lighting, new concrete curbing and sidewalks along with a complete new pavement once all the remaining work is completed,” Livak noted. “The upper parking lot will be used for overflow parking as needed.
“Current construction activities at the site include ongoing work on exterior siding, metal roofing, stone work on both exterior & interior, site work and extensive interior finish work,” Livak explained, adding that the new bathhouse is on schedule to open for beach season, by late June.
Let’s face it—while cooking over a campfire is part of the camping experience, sometimes it’s nice to have a break and let someone else do the cooking. That’s where the Park Restaurant comes in. Located on the second floor of the Red House Administration building, the restaurant offers something for everyone.
And what makes it even bigger and better this season? Outdoor seating!
“The new patio, which we’re really excited about, will be out in front of the Administration Building next to the flag poles,” Marino said. “The view of Red House Lake will be just awesome, and the building’s architecture will be behind you. The stamped concrete will be done by early to mid May and we’re hoping to have the patio open by Memorial Day Weekend.”
According to Marino, the new patio will be accessed by “a new sidewalk leading to the patio near the flag poles, and we’re going to have commercial string lights to give it a ‘cool’ outdoor atmosphere,” he explained. “There are some very nice outdoor patios in Ellicottville and it’s my hope we can join the ever popular outdoor eating venues for ASP guests and locals to enjoy!” Each table will have it’s own umbrella and a great view.
The patio will seat approximately 40-45 people, but Marino added that, “if everything goes well, there is room to expand in the future.”
The restaurant, which was closed all winter, will be reopening on Friday, May 6 at noon, in time for Mother’s Day weekend. It will be open Fridays through Sundays through Memorial Day weekend, and then daily operations begin.
As far as the fare? “We plan on doing a lot more daily specials, but still have a lot of our menu from last year in place,” stated Marino. Favorites include a Friday Fish Fry and a Sunday breakfast buffet. “Both events are very busy times for us!” Marino added.
Every view of Red House Lake is a good one, and there are so many different ways to enjoy it. First stop: the Red House Boathouse, where you can rent Old Town kayaks and canoes, stand up paddleboards (SUPs), paddle boats, rowboats and bikes.
Marino explained that they will be adding more kayaks and canoes to their fleet this year. In addition, beginning in mid-June, “we will be renting these really cool four-wheel pedal bikes called Prime Karts,” Marino said.
“Our boathouse operation is obviously ‘weather permitting,’ but we had a very busy year last season as visitors from the surrounding areas, including Ellicottville, are learning more and more about our watercraft and bike rental business in the park,” Marino stated.
The Boathouse opens for the season on Saturday, April 30. It will be open weekends, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Memorial Day weekend, after which hours will be extended.
What’s a trip to ASP without a stop or two at the stores? There are many to choose from, including a gift shop and a general store on each side of the park. There’s always something new at all the stores, and the upcoming season is no exception.
“Were always changing our product mix in our shops,” Marino said. “Between the shirts and gifts, our staff looks for unique and different items and they do a great job locating smaller companies that you won’t see at the big box stores.” Plus, he added, “We look for as many ‘Made in America’ items as we can find, which is really important to me and our guests.”
At the Red House General Store, located across from the Red House campsite loops, guests can check out the all-new Bear Paw Mining Company, a fun activity for kids and adults.
“We sell 1-2 tons of polished rocks every year in our gift shops and I thought, why don’t we add an activity to it!” said Marino.
The Mining Company will include a 12-foot water tower and plenty of rocks to choose from. People simply choose a rock bag, “pan” for rocks and keep what they find. “I’ve been just amazed being at the park now over 20+ years now, how polished rocks, geodes, magnetic rocks… sell year after year,” Marino explained. “I thought this activity would be well received by our guests. We’re hoping to attract school groups to this activity as well.”
Marino also noted that the Quaker Gift Shop, connected to the Quaker Museum, is being remodeled with new fixtures and slatwall. In addition, the Bear Paw Fudge Company will be making its debut at the Quaker General Store, located across from the Quaker registration building.
If you really want to live it up this season, book a stay at one of the park’s full-service cottages, located on the Bova (Red House) and Parallel (Quaker) trails. There are 15 cottages on Bova and 13 on Parallel, five of which on each trail are pet-friendly.
“These cottages are full service. You really just need to bring your personal items,” explained Marino. Amenities include sheets/pillows, towels, kitchen supplies, two bedrooms (one with a full bed, one with two twin beds), a full bathroom with shower, two futons, forced air heat, stove, refrigerator, blankets, utensils, coffee machine and a toaster. Cottages also include two picnic tables and outdoor grills.
“We had a very busy first season last year and reservations were strong this past winter even with the lack of snow,” Marino said. “People just want to get away from their busy schedules for a weekend.”
The popularity of these cottages means you need to make your plans early, as fall dates are already booking up. Reservations can be made at www.reserveamerica.com.
Marino added that “walk-Ins are welcome in the off-season and guests can rent one at either rental office in the park.” Nightly rates are $187.50 and the weekly rate is $750.
With the warmer temps and sunny days ahead, it’s the perfect time to plan your return to Allegany State Park, a home away from home. Whether you head there for a few hours, a weekend, or an entire week come summer, be sure to enjoy all that’s new alongside your old favorites!