ROCKLAND COUNTY, Conn. -- Robert Maher, president of the Friends of Rockland Lake and Hook Mountain Inc., extols the virtues of the three state parks in the region, which, luckily for him, are practically in his own backyard.
The Valley Cottage resident was drawn to the landscape in 1991.
Maher lives on a property that's been in his family for 170 years, and he has been the Friends president since its founding in 2004.
Maher talked about the three parks, Rockland Lake and Hook Mountain, as well as Nyack Beach State Park in Upper Nyack.
Hook Mountain is in Congers and part of the Palisades Interstate Park system. Its southernmost summit reaches 728 feet, the second-highest (after High Tor) along the Palisades ridge.
Rockland Lake State Park's lake is on a ridge of Hook Mountain above the west bank of the Hudson River.
The park offers kids and Olympic-size pools, picnic tables, a cartop boat launch dock, hiking trails, and breathtaking views of the Hudson Valley.
"It is one of the most gorgeous landscapes in Rockland County because you have hiking trails along the Hudson River and the Palisades cliffs," said Maher.
The three-park system draws many area locals, from both sides of the river, New York and New Jersey, but also a steady stream of daytrippers from Manhattan within a reasonable distance.
"At one point Rockland Lake was called the third-best New York state park, on a list with Jones Beach (State Park) No. 1 and Niagara Falls, No. 2."
The Friends group is a nonprofit whose mission is to preserve the local history and its resource of Rockland Lake State Park, he said.
"This region used to be a popular resort for people that lived in the city, and in the 1800s it was well-known for its ice that came from the pristine waters of Rockland Lake."
And while industrialization in he 20th century brought the advent of refrigeration and the collapse of the ice industry, the focal point for preservationists wasthe Palisade cliffs. The state acquired most of the property and created Rockland Lake State Park as it is today.
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