Thursday, March 11, 2010

nys parks now going after disabled? what's next? Children, Elderly, Adults, you and me?!

Protests give lift to state parks
Support from lawmakers to stop closings gains; panel acts to end abuse

By DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
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First published: Thursday, March 11, 2010

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Pressure from the public and advocacy groups is building support from lawmakers to keep state parks open, according to park leaders, who proposed Wednesday to toughen eligibility guidelines for disabled patrons to receive free or discounted passes to park facilities.
Gov. David Paterson's 2010-11 budget proposal calls for $29 million in cuts from the state parks budget, and the closing of several state parks and historic attractions, including John Boyd Thacher State Park in Voorheesville. Lobbying by the public and park groups is beginning to move lawmakers who were on the fence last month, said Chairwoman Heather Mabee of the Saratoga-Capital Region Parks Commission, which met Wednesday in Saratoga Spa State Park.

"I think state legislators are hearing us. But we still need every friend you know, every person you know, to advocate for our needs," Mabee said. Volunteer "friends" groups at the Capital Region's 20 parks and historic sights are still planning summer programs, she said.

At its meeting the commission also discussed a new state parks initiative that would change who is eligible for its Access Pass program, now used by about 34,000 state residents a year who claim disabilities. The pass entitles them to free or discounted admission to parks, cabins, campsites, golf courses, historic sites and recreational facilities operated by the state.

Under the program's new guidelines, "semi-ambulatory" park goers would be eliminated, and individuals receiving federal Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income or Railroad Retirement Board Disability will no longer be automatically eligible, State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash said. An estimated two-thirds of the 34,000 people who get the discount passes will no longer qualify, which will save the agency about $1 million a year, park officials said. Others will continue to be eligible. Individuals who lose eligibility can reapply.

The changes result from an internal review of the program that was launched after media reports showed that "an overwhelmingly disproportionate number" of Long Island Railroad retirees who received federal disability benefits were playing golf for free at state parks. Disabled rail retirees are among those who will no longer be automatically eligible for the Access Pass.

The $1 million in savings forecasted is already built into the 2010-11 fiscal year budget plan that calls for closing and reduced operations at dozens of state parks and historic sites. Specifics of the proposed rule change can be found at under the "Inside the Agency" heading. State Parks is accepting public comments on the plan until May 3, 2010. Comments can be sent to; by regular mail to OPRHP Counsel's Office, Empire State Plaza, Agency Building 1, Albany, NY 12238; or fax to 474-5106.

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VictoriousVictorian said...

Have you ever seen some of these "Disabled"? They are clearly not. They are people, like many on unemployment now that have learned to abuse the system. What would you rather? The pool closed or to get money for parks. I think all people should pay the same no matter what if there is a charge. Some students or young families may be unable to afford a day in the park or the pool $6 to get in, then a few dollars per head at the pool, or $8 at the Victoria, add $4 for a few children. It can easily add up to a 20$+ day. On the other hand "disabled" and seniors get in free to the park. Seniors pay half the price of an adult at the pool and the "disabled" pay nothing, they also get golf discounts and camping discounts; what a normal person would pay hundreds for all summer the "disabled" probably pay under 50. There needs to be a little more control and see if they are what they say they are.If there disabled by all means let them in, this is what led to the failure of NYS----Abuse

Ben lives on said...

Yea we all know the disabled are really rich and don't want to work. And the elderly everybody knows how greedy and rich they are. Why not target Jews and Catholics if they can give money to a church or Synagogue they can pay double.

Cutting off the disabled won't save a dime.They just won't be able to afford to go. The only real thing that will save money is cutting the bloated obscene salaries of the employees

Anonymous said...

Isn't this a form of discrimination? Some disabled are more equal than others? All disabled are on severely limited incomes.