Date: May 11, 2021
City of Albany Department of Planning & Development
ALBANY, NY – Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Councilmember Jahmel Robinson, County Executive Daniel McCoy, County Legislator Wanda Willingham, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm, local officials, and residents participated in ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning to celebrate the opening of the Brother Yusuf Burgess Trail located in Albany’s Tivoli Lake Preserve at the trailhead of its Livingston Avenue entrance in West Hill.
Made possible through a $1.5 million grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Brother Yusuf Burgess Trail is a one-mile, winding, ADA-compliant path that brings visitors through wetlands and other natural habitats that host a variety of wildlife in the Tivoli Preserve, and provides access to Tivoli Lake, the newly restored Patroon Creek, and the Preserve’s extensive secondary trail network.
Brother Yusuf Burgess was a neighborhood activist, environmentalist, and Vietnam War veteran who advocated for outdoor education and programming for neighborhood youth and formed the Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve group. He worked at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation from 2004 to 2009 and again in 2014 to coordinate the State’s Campership Diversity Program which, along with other initiatives, helped introduce countless Albany-area children to DEC's summer youth camps and outdoor experiences such as hiking, fishing, and camping, as well as environmental stewardship. In 2014, Brother Yusuf passed away, but his vision and long-time advocacy remained an important driver for Tivoli Lake Preserve’s subsequent rejuvenation.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said “Brother Yusuf was a larger-than-life outdoorsperson and youth advocate, and he is missed to this day. Part of Brother Yusuf’s vision for this Preserve was to bring visitors to Tivoli Lake and the Patroon Creek, and now all who travel to those bodies of water will travel on a path bearing Brother Yusuf’s name. I am so thankful to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for their gracious financial support of this important community investment that will help make this gem more accessible to all those who visit it.”
Assemblymember John T. McDonald III said, "It is a fitting tribute to Brother Yusuf to dedicate this trail in his honor. Brother Yusuf Burgess was a strong advocate for our environment and community, and he worked not only to foster a love of our natural resources for children and young people but supported accessibility for all to appreciate them. Thank you to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, the City of Albany, Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm, Cherrie Burgess, and all who were involved in making this trail possible which continues Brother Yusuf's important contributions and his legacy."
Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said, “We remember Brother Yusuf as an advocate for the outdoors and for developing our youth’s connection to our environment,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy. “Here at the at the Tivoli Lake Preserve, Brother Yusuf helped to revitalize it and found the Friends of Tivoli Lake — illustrating his commitment to his community. I thank Mayor Sheehan and the City of Albany for commemorating this special place in the name of Brother Yusuf who treasured it and helped protect Tivoli Lake for all of us to enjoy, to this day.”
NYS DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said “Through his remarkable work both at DEC and in Albany communities, Brother Yusuf Burgess helped improve the lives of children by providing new opportunities for youth to connect to nature. This beautiful trail is a perfect way to honor Brother Yusuf’s memory and his vision for community parks. DEC is proud to continue our partnership with the City of Albany and those following in Brother Yusuf’s footsteps to engage people from all of our communities in the outdoors.”
Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said “Tivoli Lake is a critical asset to Albany, tucked away in the heart of the city and neglected for too long. But the recent improvements to this open space, the invasive species management and the new trail dedicated in his name would have made Brother Yusuf proud. I want to thank everyone who made this transformation possible and who continue to prioritize parks and conservation, including Mayor Sheehan, Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve, the State DEC and of course, the lasting legacy of Brother Yusuf’s advocacy.”
5th Ward Common Councilmember Jahmel Robinson said, “The Brother Yusuf Burgess trail will provide safe and navigable access for residents and visitors to explore the Tivoli preserve and ignite curiosity about nature in a way that Brother Yusuf would have wanted.”
Cherrie Burgess said “Brother Yusuf, my husband, was an outdoorsman and educator. Two of his favorite quotes were ‘using the power of nature to transform urban youth’ and ‘Leave No Child Inside.’ This new trail, accessible to children and their families, helps turn these slogans into a reality for young people today and for generations to come.”
John O’Grady, President, Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm said, “While Brother Yusuf’s energy is missed, the recent investments by the City of Albany and the Water Department, as well as New York State, have brought the Preserve closer to his vision.”
In the Spring of 2014, the City of Albany began assessing opportunities to improve Tivoli Lake Preserve that aligned with goals set in the City’s Albany 2030: Comprehensive Plan – creating a Visioning Plan that would revitalize the Preserve and create a welcoming space for not only the entire West Hill neighborhood, but all City residents and the Capital Region. This process included extensive community and stakeholder outreach and engagement in order to gather ideas, address concerns, form recommendations and prioritize future improvements.
Two of the major projects borne from the Visioning Plan were removal of invasive species, and the construction of the Brother Yusuf Trail. Since the spring of 2017, the City of Albany has contracted with the Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm to lead an Invasive Species Management Program using sheep housed at the Farm. The sheep graze invasive Phragmites and grasses in targeted areas in the Preserve. This helps the natural ecosystem, keeps the new trails open, and aids in the restoration of Tivoli Lake, which has been reduced to 50% of its original size by invasive species.
A continued effort from the community, the City of Albany, and the State of New York to implement the Tivoli Lake Preserve Visioning Plan will maximize the potential of the Preserve as a community and regional resource.
Residents can learn more about the Tivoli Lake Preserve, upcoming programs, and how they can get involved by visiting the Friends of Tivoli website and the Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm Facebook page.
Brother Yusuf Burgess (1950-2014) Biography (text from the Tivoli Lake Preserve Plaque)
Brother Yusuf Burgess spent his childhood in Brooklyn, completed a tour of duty in Vietnam, and spent several years raising a large family.
Brother Yusuf became active in advocacy groups for children and environmental causes almost as soon as he arrived in Albany in 1991. Soon after arriving, he founded the Youth Ed-Venture and Nature Network to introduce Albany youth to the Adirondacks and the Catskills – and to the Tivoli Lake Preserve.
His favorite slogan was “No Child Left Inside.”
In 2014, he founded Friends of Tivoli Lake. Brother Yusuf and Friends of Tivoli Lake were an important part of the City of Albany’s efforts to revitalize the Preserve. Consultants paid by the City gathered public input and produced a Visioning Plan in 2014.
Part of the plan was to “daylight” the Patroon Creek, which many years ago had been diverted through a six-foot-wide pipe that ran underground at the north end of the Preserve to prevent stormwater runoff from sending polluted water into the Lake.
The Creek is no longer polluted, no longer underground, and today is one of the Preserve’s more impressive attractions.
Brother Yusuf died suddenly in December 2014. The long line of people at his service included City officials and representatives from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. The following year about 50 people attended a memorial tree-planting in Brother Yusuf’s honor at the Manning Boulevard entrance to the Preserve. We hope you will take a moment to remember Brother Yusuf’s legacy as you enjoy the Preserve.