Most people have no idea there’s a state park named for Donald Trump. It’s a patch of untended weeds and brush that’s been described as an abandoned wasteland in Westchester County, New York. And it’s pretty hard to find.
Driving through a suburban neighborhood in Yorktown, the only sign that I’m in a state park is a wooden message board. But there are no messages or maps on it. It’s empty—well, almost.
It looks like somebody tried to graffiti it…T-R-U-M…and I’m not sure what it says under that. I think it’s supposed to be profane, but I can’t really tell.
I trudge past the sign and head down a dirt path that cuts through the wilderness.
There’s a lot of weeds, really can’t walk through here without stepping in weeds. I kind of wish I’d worn better socks. It looks like people don’t come here very much, at least not to do anything wholesome.
I don’t see another person the whole time I'm there. Donald J. Trump State Park doesn’t have much by way of views or activities. And this place doesn’t attract a lot of visitors, despite its location less than an hour from New York City.
“I’ve had a lot of people try to find the place and they can’t even find it.” That’s New York State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef. The park is in her district. And she’s been here all of once—for the groundbreaking in 2006, when Donald Trump and then-Governor George Pataki and lots of other dignitaries hiked up to the land’s only vista to praise the state’s newest park.
“I can’t remember, it was so long ago, what I was able to see from there. We were on top of a hill, looking down at all the wild nature of this area. And that was my only time I ever met Donald Trump and his family, standing on top of the hill, accepting the land from him.”
Trump gave the park to the state after local zoning laws wouldn’t let him build a golf course on the land. Pataki congratulated him on his commitment to preserve natural resources. And then Trump used the park as a $100 million tax write-off.
The upkeep on the park pretty much came to a halt when the state hit a budget crunch in 2010.
“In a lot of instances, when a family donates something, they put some money into it to get it up and running or do some maintenance on it. At the time, there was no commitment that way and so it just sits idle as a wild park.”
Trump threatened to sue the state to get it back. But his threats went nowhere.
The park hasn’t attracted many new visitors since its namesake became president. But it’s not the land itself that bothers Assemblywoman Galef. It’s more the fact that the park is prominently featured on an exit sign on the nearby Taconic State Parkway.
“The only complaints I have really received is the huge Trump Park sign on the Taconic that lead you to a part that is not really, it really hasn’t developed into anything. I almost think it’s somewhat false advertising.”
Galef is a Democrat, but she says this isn’t about politics for her. She just wants her constituents to have a nice park. And it would take government money—taxpayer money—and a bigger budget for the state parks system to make the park a real draw for hikers.
“The other way it could attract attention is if Mr. Trump—President Trump—would put some money into maintenance to have a park with his name on it that is special, instead of a park with his name on it that doesn’t look very good.”
And some Democratic lawmakers in New York City want the name off entirely. There was a push to name it after famed socialist folk-singer Pete Seeger, or Heather Heyer, the woman killed at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In the meantime, here’s a recommendation: If you’re in the area of Westchester County and you want to get out into nature, there’s a beautiful park just down the road from Donald J. Trump State Park. You can swim, spread out a picnic or fish on sparkling blue lakes.
It’s called…Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park.