The Open Space Institute (OSI) has announced that New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) Commissioner Erik Kulleseid will serve as its next President and CEO.
The selection of Commissioner Kulleseid marks his return to OSI. During his original eight-year stint at OSI, Kulleseid oversaw the creation of OSI’s parks initiative aimed at making protected land more accessible and welcoming to all people, according to the announcement.
Commissioner Kulleseid will succeed Christopher “Kim” Elliman, who has led OSI since 2004. The leadership transition coincides with the organization’s 50th anniversary. Since 1974, OSI has protected more than 2.4 million acres of land throughout the eastern United States and Canada.
Kulleseid’s decades-long career includes time at the Trust for Public Land and prior government service as Deputy Commissioner for Open Space Protection at New York State Parks. He has served as New York State Parks Commissioner since 2019. He is a graduate of the Forest School at the Yale School of the Environment and Stanford Law School.
His tenure as parks commissioner was highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as major capital initiatives including the opening of Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn; creating a new welcome center at Niagara Falls State Park; the new Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center on Long Island; the creation of the new Sojourner Truth State Park in Kingston; and the opening of the Autism Nature Trail in Letchworth State Park, a first-of-its kind trail designed specifically for people on the autism spectrum and their families.
State Parks have set annual attendance records in every year of his tenure.
After Elliman’s announcement of his plans to retire in May 2023, OSI’s Board of Trustees says they initiated a national search for a successor in conjunction with search firm Russell Reynolds Associates.
Erik Kulleseid speaking at the Opening of Thacher Park Center at John Boyd Thacher State Park during his time with OSI (photo by Mike Groll courtesy OSI).