Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

May 15, 2023

(518) 486-1868 |

New York State Parks Announces Upgraded Animal Exhibits at Bear Mountain State Park’s Trailside Museums and Zoo

$1.8 million project to improve habitats for bobcat, fox, and porcupine

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) today announced three new mammal exhibits at Bear Mountain State Park's Trailside Museums and Zoo. The new bobcat, red fox, and porcupine exhibits were designed to provide larger natural habitats for the animals while honoring the rustic charm of the historic facility and adjacent museum building.

This $1.8 million improvement project adds three new, state-of-the art animal habitats and a public loop trail — replacing a row of four smaller exhibits. To accomplish this, the previous exhibit infrastructure was first removed, allowing the area to be reclaimed. The larger new habitats were then carefully integrated into the landscape, incorporating spectacular natural rock outcroppings. Rustic animal night houses, built from local stone and lumber to resemble the nearby museum, round out the site. 

"New York State Parks welcomes this enhancement to Bear Mountain State Park's Trailside Museums and Zoo, one that has thoughtfully optimized animal care considerations and the sites natural topography," said State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. "Our partners at the Palisades Interstate Park Commission are to thank for this project, as is the generosity of the Drew family and partners at New York Works, the Environmental Protection Fund Grant Program (EPF), the State Park Infrastructure Fund (SPIF), and the Garden Club of Orange & Dutchess Counties." 

Executive Director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission Joshua Laird said, "For 96 years, Trailside Museums & Zoo has been a place where children and families from all over have come to learn about our region's environment and history. Originally founded as a field station of the American Museum of Natural History, Trailside is a home for animals that cannot survive in the wild, an education and research facility, and supporter of conservation efforts across our parks. The new enclosures for our bobcat, fox, and porcupine represent Trailside's future as we continue the Zoo's educational mission while providing the best possible environment for the animals in our care. We are grateful for all our partners at New York State Parks, the Drew family, and the Garden Club of Orange & Dutchess Counties who supported this project."  

"The Garden Club of Orange & Dutchess is pleased to provide support for the purchase of the native plantings which will grace this exciting project, as part of our ongoing collaboration with Trailside Museums and Zoo," said PIPC Commissioner and Garden Club member Jeannette Redden and Garden Club member Fenella Heckscher in a joint statement. 

Funding for the project was sourced from a $680,000 endowment, with the remainder from New York State Parks capital funds and grants. 

All of Trailside's featured animals are local, native species (such as black bear, eastern coyote, beaver, bald eagle, various owls and hawks, etc.) and virtually all are non-releasable and could not survive in the wild. Thus, unlike conventional zoos, Trailside functions both as an environmental education and native animal rescue facility. 

Trailside Museums and Zoo was founded in 1927 as a collaboration between the American Museum of Natural History and PIPC with the mission to educate park users about the natural and cultural history of the park and its surroundings in southeastern New York State. Just 40 miles from New York City and available to the public through optional suggested donation, Trailside is the only zoo in the state park system and attracts between 75,000-100,000 visitors annually, representing a diverse cross-section of the public.

Located at Bear Mountain State Park along the first section of the Appalachian Trail to be built, Trailside was one of the first facilities in the nation to employ a self-guided nature trail. Over time, this trail evolved from a narrow woodland path with portable nature exhibits to a half-mile paved walkway connecting permanent animal enclosures and four museum buildings on a 30-acre campus. 

Despite expanding its infrastructure over time, Trailside is still best described as lightly developed. Much of the site remains in a forested condition, true to the founder's vision for park patrons to discover nature in its natural state. The museum buildings, main office, workshop, and education office are aesthetically pleasing, single-story structures built in the 1930s from local stone and wood in a "park architecture" style. 

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which saw a record 79.5 million visits in 2022. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518.474.0456. Also, connect on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.