Park Manager, Peter Iskenderian leaving

By Paul Post @paulpost on Twitter

MOREAU, N.Y. – Peter Iskenderian has overseen the largest expansion in the history of Moreau Lake State Park, which he’s leaving soon for Rockefeller State Park Preserve in the lower Hudson Valley.

The more than 6,000-acre Moreau Lake park has roughly tripled in size and added 28 miles of new trails, six backcountry cabins, and diverse year-rounding programs including a brand-new observatory for night sky viewing, since he became manager in 2007.

Following the park’s acquisition of former Mount McGregor Correctional Facility property, he also oversees operations at Grant Cottage State Historic Site, adjacent to the old prison.

“Most people, when they come to the park, they think it’s just the lake and the campground,” Iskenderian said. “But there are 40 miles of trails up on the mountain and across the river. We have eight miles along the Hudson River. That’s another surprising thing people don’t know about.”

“We see eagles every day and there’s amazing fishing,” he said. “There are boat launches and pull-offs along the river for people to kayak, canoe and go hunting.”

However, he’s ready for a new challenge now, and a chance to be closer to family and friends in his native Rockland County.

In some ways, Iskenderian’s new assignment has brought him full circle within the state parks system, as he was an assistant manager at the Rockefeller site before coming to Moreau.

Located in Westchester County, the unique 3,000-acre preserve includes the Rockefeller family’s Rockwood Hall and Pocantico Hills estates, which they deeded to the state in 1983. The world-famous Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is also there and Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park, which Iskenderian previously managed, runs right through the preserve.

One of three state historic parks in New York, the Old Croton Aqueduct – 26 miles long and 66-feet wide – is a tunnel that once supplied New York City with water from Croton Reservoir.

“It was one of the greatest engineering advancements of the 19th century,” Iskenderian said. “It’s an amazing park. A trail, which runs along the top of the old aqueduct, passes through 11 towns and has more than 1,000 neighboring properties. So it can be challenging at times.”

The Rockefeller preserve also includes scenic Swan Lake and three century-old stone bridges spanning the Pocantico River. Rockwood Hall, William Rockefeller’s gentleman’s farm estate from 1866-1922, was landscaped by Fred Law Olmsted, co-designer of New York’s Central Park. The property affords grand vistas of the Palisades, directly across the Hudson River.

But the preserve’s recreational activities are limited to walking, hiking, jogging and cross-country skiing. Horseback riding is allowed, by permit, on miles of old carriage trails.

Because of its location, the preserve is quite often frequented by celebrities from various walks of life, including former President Bill and Hillary Clinton, who live in Westchester County.

“A lot of movies have been filmed there,” Iskenderian said. “It’s very exciting. I’ll be living in a house on the property.”

His career started out at Tallman State Park, a day-use facility in the Palisades Region.

“I was always interested in the outdoors,” Iskenderian said. “I was in Cub Scouts since I was 5 or 6. Then I went right into Boy Scouts, which I was in till I was 18. Growing up, we were always outside in the woods doing something. There were no video games back then. So I always had an interest in the outdoors.”

He earned an associate’s degree in park management at SUNY Delhi, and got his bachelor’s degree in the same field of study at Long Beach State University in California.

“Six friends and I all went to school out there,” he said. “It was great going to the beach whenever we wanted to. But the day after I graduated I was back in New York. I love it here.”

He’s especially fond of the Adirondacks and recognizes the importance of Moreau Lake park’s strategic location to protecting this part of the region’s natural resources.

Saratoga County is upstate New York’s fastest-growing county and the Route 9 corridor in Moreau – just north of the park – is expected to undergo dramatic commercial development in the next few years, following the recent approval of a new municipal sewer system.

Moreau Lake isn’t within the 6 million-acre Adirondack Park, but its property is almost equidistant from Glens Falls and Saratoga Springs. Eventually, the cities could be connected with trails that pass through the Moreau Lake network.

The Open Space Institute recently acquired 890 acres bordering the Hudson River. Plans call for having it become part of the state park, which would give it more than 7,000 acres.

Iskenderian credited many parties for Moreau Lake’s significant improvements, starting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s NY Parks 2020 initiative, which has allocated $900 million for infrastructure upgrades across the state.

Projects at Moreau Lake have included new campground bathrooms and showers, campsites with electricity for persons with disabilities, a Nature Center addition, several new trailhead parking lots, and an expanded park office and staff, which includes 10 year-round employees and about three dozen in summer.

Moreau Lake became a state park in the mid-1960s. The last original cabin from that era has been converted to a warming hut, staffed by Friends of Moreau Lake State Park, which Iskenderian credited for many other improvements such as bird viewing stations and an osprey nesting platform.

While he’s responsible for Grant Cottage operations, the site is run by a separate Friends group, which he also cited for invaluable contributions.

“It’s nice to have a great volunteer base,” Iskenderian said. “If you don’t have funding, you count on them.”

Likewise, the Saratoga-Capital Region Parks Commission has been a strong advocate and former state parks Commissioner Rose Harvey, who resigned in November, helped bring many projects to fruition, he said.

Moreau Lake attracts more than 400,000 visitors per year and its campground is the busiest in the entire state system, largely because of its proximity to Saratoga and Lake George.

Iskenderian envisions even more improvements in future years.

“Reservations for our group campsite, for up to 35 people, just opened and it’s almost already book for the year,” he said. “We need another one and we need more cabins. That’s what people want now, a roof over their heads.”

The park master plan also calls for more campsites including a space dedicated for recreational vehicles, on the east side of Old Saratoga Road, near Route 9.

Iskenderian’s last day at Moreau is Jan. 25. A replacement hasn’t been named yet, but he’s confident the park is in good hands.

“This staff is perfectly capable of running the park without me,” he said. “They have over 100 years of combined experience. They’ve all been here a very long time.”

Although anxious to get started in his new job, Iskenderian plans to make regular visits back to Moreau Lake, and he’ll no doubt be surprised as it continues to grow and improve under the many programs he helped put in motion.

“It’s such an important park,” he said. “This is a beautiful area. As it grows up with people coming into the area, it becomes even more important to protect the land around this park.”


On behalf of the Friends of Moreau Lake State Park, we are very sad to see him go. His contributions have been invaluable to the sustainability of the park. He is respected by everyone and is a trusted leader. We wish him well and the very best in his new job!