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NYS Parks & Recreation Facing Uphill Battle

NYS State Parks System Face Uphill Battle
Darron Cummings, AP Photo

Budget cuts are jeopardizing New York State Parks and some advocacy groups are banding together to find solutions the State can adopt when the legislature returns to Albany on January 1, 2011.

Earlier this year a proposal to close 40% of the State’s park system raised concerns about the reality of the crisis, and Executive Director for Parks and Trails New York, Robin Dropkin said it was time to act. She said, “It’s like a rubber band, you can only stretch it so far and then things snap. Right now the operating budget is about $116 million and if that is reduced any further it’s inevitable that parks are going to close. We have to think creatively and there needs to be some kind of dedicated funding stream for parks.”

Dropkin said some of the options on the table include putting a surge charge on license plates and plastic bags, and possibly even looking at what other state’s are doing to keep their parks open.

Currently there is a $1 billion back-log of infrastructure needs, which are directly related to health and safety requirements according to Dropkin.

The Acting Commissioner of Parks and Recreation, Andy Beers testified at a hearing in Albany this week about the crisis. He said the recent lay-offs will also lead to park closures.

NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright said, “We’ve got a sort of a rolling crisis that just continues due to revenue not coming into the State from our various revenue sources sufficient to keep a sense of equilibrium and predictability for our parks, even though the legislature worked very hard to make restorations sufficient to keep the parks open. We’ve seen another round of cuts that is affected the agency’s personnel and they are now telling us that some of the parks that are closed for the winter may not be re-opened for the Spring.”

Englebright who also Chairs the Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development said he will be looking to State’s like Montana who implemented a successful surcharge program with the Department of Motor Vehicles, that directly benefitted their Parks. “I anticipate we’re going to be wrestling with some of the same problems that became so very evident last year,” he said.

He said the public plays an important role through their participation because they can make a difference in terms of the outcome of the deliberations.

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