The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is recommending Long Point State Park be closed this year, while portions of Allegany State Park will face cuts as well, as state officials look for ways to trim costs.
"New York faces an historic fiscal crisis of unprecedented magnitude,'' said Gov. David Paterson in a news release about the park cuts. ''It has demanded many difficult but necessary decisions to help ensure the fiscal integrity of our state. The unfortunate reality of closing an $8.2 billion deficit is that there is less money available for many worthy services and programs. In an environment when we have to cut funding to schools, hospitals, nursing homes and social services, no area of state spending, including parks and historic sites, could be exempt from reductions."
"We cannot mortgage our state's financial future through further gimmicks or avoidance behavior," he said, adding cuts are needed in order to put New York on the road to fiscal recovery.
Carol Ash, commissioner of the office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, visited Allegany State Park recently to warn of a list of recommended closures to the park system after $20 million in cuts from the parks budget was deemed necessary. She said that list, which came out Friday, was not taken likely.
In addition to the proposed closing of Long Point, the state is recommending changes for Allegany State Park this year as well, including the closure of the Quaker Area Swim Beach, eliminating winter trail maintenance, reducing recreation programs and closing the Quaker Cabins Area on Dec. 1. The plan includes closing 41 parks statewide and 14 historic sites, along with service reductions at 23 parks and one historic site. Site fee increases, to be identified later, will also be recommended. Lawmakers reviewing the budget will then debate the issues before passing a final financial plan this spring.
It didn't take that long for some to garner an opinion, however.
"We cannot mortgage our state's financial future through further gimmicks or avoidance behavior."
Gov. David Paterson
"Allegany State Park and Long Point State Park attract countless visitors every year and bring in tons of revenue to our region," said state Senator Catharine Young. She said the parks are "enormous assets" that provide inexpensive recreational and outdoor experiences. Sen. Young also questioned why the state invested $4.1 million in renovation and capital improvement projects at Allegany to draw more visitors.
"To close even a part of this park is counter-productive and will deliver a blow to our local businesses and tourism," she said.
"The irresponsible spending and bloated budget passed last year ... created a deficit that is now putting our parks in jeopardy of closing," she said, adding spending cuts should be directed toward Medicaid fraud, state bureaucracy or new state programs launched this year.
"Our state's financial problems are a big concern, but closing these parks will only make matters worse and delay our economic rebound," she said.
"News of the closings will devastate many communities as their citizens rely on parks for affordable, close-to-home recreation, and their businesses rely on parks to bring in revenue," said Robin Dropkin, executive director of Parks & Trails New York, a statewide advocacy organization. She said savings from closing the parks is "miniscule," paling in comparison to hardships closings will cause.
Allegany Parks Commission Chairman Dalton Burgett said the fight to continue to get funding restored that may lessen the cuts is still under way, adding he understands Gov. Paterson needs to make tough decisions in the fiscal crisis, but, he said, he is unsure why the parks chosen for closure were picked.
"Maybe the battle is not over," he said.