Thursday, October 09, 2008

Seasonal employees only cuts at Saratoga Spa State Park so far.....

Tree nursery, parks feeling state budget cuts
By: PAUL POST , The Saratogian

David Lee, supervisor at the state Department of Environmental Conservation's Saratoga Tree Nursery on Route 50, examines 3-year-old red oak trees grown from acorns at the site. (ED BURKE/The Saratogian)

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The head of state-owned Saratoga Tree Nursery is concerned that his facility could fall victim to the budget chopping block.

With 10 full-time and nearly two dozen seasonal workers, the nursery distributes 1.5 million seedlings per year to private land owners for use in valuable projects such as erosion control, reforestation, wildlife habitat restoration and buffering agricultural lands from nearby water sources.

Founded in 1911, the 200-acre site is the last remaining state-owned operation of its kind, down from the half-dozen or so that previously served various parts of New York. Recently, the cash-strapped state cut the nursery's non-personnel budget by 14 percent ($30,000) that will make it difficult to collect seeds needed for growing new trees and shrubs.


"I have a concern that they might take a look at the program and decide that we are no longer needed, which would be a loss to New York residents as far as having a source to obtain low-cost seedlings," Supervising Forester David Lee said.

Autumn is normally a time for collecting and sewing some plant and tree seeds in the ground. Nursery employees collect seeds on their own, but also rely on a statewide network of people who, in the past, have been reimbursed for turning in seed-bearing cones and fruit.

"We've been forced to cut back due to budget cuts," Lee said. "Some species (red pine, red oak) we might have to eliminate if we're not able to obtain the needed amount of seed ourselves. The amount we're going to be able to plant is going to be a lot less."

In addition to providing seedlings to residents at cost, the nursery also has an extensive school program.

Classroom groups are allowed to get 50 free seedlings that may be planted on school grounds or used in some other type of educational program determined by their teacher.

State forest rangers, whose headquarters are at the tree nursery, are also feeling budget cut impacts. No staff reductions are anticipated, but equipment and supply purchases are being kept to a minimum. "We are cutting back on training, meetings, conferences, which will translate into less overtime being used and a savings in mileage," said Lori O'Connell, a state Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman.

Elsewhere, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has sent seasonal workers home early and is cutting back on some facilities and services.

"We had to cut the season short for several of our employees who would normally work till the end of November, office staff and grounds people," Saratoga Spa State Park Manager Mike Greenslade said.

Saratoga-Capital Region Director Alane Chinian said that seasonal layoffs have occurred across the board, throughout the area. Also, the state has imposed a hiring freeze meaning that retiring employees aren't being replaced.

Chinian said that her region has been directed to reduce spending $250,000 before the start of the state's next fiscal year on April 1. Some equipment purchases have been delayed to help meet that goal.

However, Chinian said she's extremely concerned about the cost of this winter's heating costs, even though the park took a number of energy conservation measures, installing new boilers.

The parks department has already decided not to keep Schodack Island State Park in Castleton open this winter. The gate will be closed and an access road won't be plowed, meaning that hunters and cross-country skiers will have to park elsewhere and hike in.

Two campgrounds in Rensselaer and Schoharie counties have closed early, too.


Anonymous said...

I think this budget crisis is the perfect opportunity to clean house in the state spa park and preservation office. Get rid of them all after their disgraceful performance this past summer!

Anonymous said...

You have a great plan there genius, I can't believe it all the trouble that this state is in and you're still fixated on those damn state parks. And shame on you for wishing unemployment on anyone during these difficult times, especially for something stupid like opening a pool in June instead of May. Attitudes like yours don't help to solve the problem, they become the problem! Also, genius if you get rid of them all who will run the place, there's a hiring freeze remember? Pretty selective when you're running your mouth off aren't you? And shame on the STVPS as well, the point in having a blog is to address people's postings and agree or disagree, by keeping silent you make it look like you agree with all the nonsense people put on here and then you make hypocrites out of yourselves by saying you adore parks and you try to work very closely with them to achieve your goals. You loose credibility as each day passes. And no I'm not an employee, but I know a lot of them and I am sticking up for them because they work harder than any of you will ever know. Spend one day in their shoes and then come back and blog this nonsense.

save the victoria pool society said...

We wish for many more Park employees. Most of us helped to pay for college by working at Saratoga Spa State Park and give back to the park in countless ways.

Anonymous said...

Countless ways, I know you tried to count them and couldn't...there aren't any. And your response (once again as always) didn't address a single thing I said. You should be a politician, you're perfect at fudging the responses.

Anonymous said...

I say increase the fees to create more revenue. For all that we are given the fees are much too low.

save the victoria pool society said...

Most New York State Park pools charge a $2 admission fee. Victoria Pool is the most expensive at $6 of any NYS pool. Since our precious tax dollars already pay for NYS Parks there should be no fees to enter the park or for pool admission. With the economy in shambles state parks will be more precious commodoties than ever. People are losing their life savings and jobs and homes and you want them to pay more?

Anonymous said...

YES! Those $2 pools probably don't get you a chair and an umbrella. Visit the peerless for example. By saying there should be NO fees at all only shows how ignorant you are to the situation. What do you think maintains ALL the facilities? Besides, those precious tax dollars are being wasted on causes like yours. Don't forget that article from last month...the region took in 1.5 million dollars last season...the same amount spent to rehab the pool in previous years. Who knows your hands could be just as bloody in the fall of OPRHP as anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Yeah your hands are just as bloody!

Anonymous said...

Most pools only charge $2, but unlike the Victoria Pool, to get to those pools, each car must pay $6. So your $6 is actually too low. Nice job of leaving that little fact out.

And you don't think there should be an entrance fee for your precious pool? I would guess that the $6 is what probably turns many people away. Imagine how many more people (and children) would be invading "your" facility if it were free!!

Your blog is a joke, but I do enjoy it because it is very entertaining.

Anonymous said...

The charge to go to Moreau Lake is $7 per vehicle and that is to go to a beach. AND you don't get a chair, umbrella and all that stuff. The pool entrance fee is not outrageous consider you don't have to pay any park entrance fee. You do forget to mention that, the Victoria Pool is more than the Peerless because it is outside of the VUF section of the grounds. To say that your tax dollars should cover entrance fees, pool usage fees and maintenance fees is totally outrageous.

Anonymous said...

Also, if there were no entrance fees that would take away the jobs that the people in the toll houses and behind the cash registers do. As you stated many of you paid for college by working at the Spa Park, why would you now want jobs to be removed?

Anonymous said...

nice work anonymous 12:37! Their silence can only mean that they have once again been nabbed in their own hypocracy....HA!