On any long-distance trek, the path climbs, dips, and turns, as Robin Dropkin K’74 P’05 ’09 has experienced during her 25 years at the nonprofit Parks & Trails New York, based in Albany. Dropkin is the longtime executive director, leading efforts to support state parks and trails in lean times and in fatter ones.
Now is a very good time. Several years of state investment, long sought by Parks & Trails, are paying off. “The governor had pledged $900 million to revitalize state parks, I think in large part because we had come out with a report that pointed out the crumbling infrastructure in parks. I don’t think we can take all the credit, but it certainly moved things along,” Dropkin says. Another recent victory in which her organization had a hand: The state is completing gaps in the Erie Canalway Trail between Buffalo and Albany, plus expanding and connecting the trail with the Hudson River Valley Greenway to create the 750 mile Empire State Trail.
The work on the parks and the trails is scheduled to be completed in 2020. But there’s always more work to be done than resources can cover, which is why Dropkin is enthused about a big new project. Parks & Trails recently obtained $1 million in state funding that the organization will allocate to “friends groups,” which are low-budget citizen organizations that support parks and trails.
A lot of people in Albany, the state capital, move back and forth between government and nonprofit work, observes Dropkin, but she’s stayed put in the nonprofit sector. She likes working in a lean-and-mean organization that can move fast to make big change. “I’ve always felt like I could be more effective from the outside in and always liked prodding government to move forward,” she says.