Friday, April 02, 2010

Fees going up at Spa State Park. Make sure you go to the bathroom before going to Thacher Park.

Grafton, Moreau, Spa fees to rise
Capital Region's most popular state parks to cost more to use this summer under budget plan

Staff reports
Last updated: 7:49 a.m., Friday, April 2, 2010

ALBANY - Use fees will be going up at Grafton, Saratoga Spa and Moreau Lake state parks as part of plans to cover $4 million in proposed budget cuts at the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
The added fees are part of Gov. David Paterson's proposed 2009-10 budget, and will not avert the proposed closing and hours cutbacks at parks and historic sites this season, said Eileen Larrabee, a parks spokeswoman.

Parking fees at 27 "flagship" parks would rise from $6 or $7 a vehicle to $8 a vehicle, according to a parks office statement issued Thursday. Parks with ocean beaches would see parking fees increase from $8 to $10.

Also, fees would be increased at state golf courses, although not at Saratoga Spa State Park, where the course is run by a private concessionaire, Larabee said.

Also, out-of-state visitors will be paying more to camp than New Yorkers for first time across the board. A surcharge of $5 per night on campsites and $25 per week on cottage and cabin rentals will be added for out-of-state visitors.

The surcharges have only been levied in the past at certain high-demand parks, Larrabee said.

In addition, a mandatory vehicle entrance fee for the Walkway Over the Hudson parking lot in Poughkeepsie will be established later. Voluntary donation boxes will also be placed at the Walkway.

The Empire Passport for unlimited day-use park visits is unchanged at $65 a season.

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Park-goers should go, before going to Thacher

RYAN MUNKS 04/01/10
In what is expected to be the warmest weekend of the year as of yet, park-goers may want to take into account that bathroom facilities will not be available before heading to Thacher Park.

On Thursday, April 1, Anni Murray, one of the organizers of the grassroots movement to keep the park opened informed The Spotlight that staff at the park have locked the bathroom facilities.

Eileen Larrabee, director of communications for the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation confirmed that the bathroom facilities have been closed as a cost saving measure in light of the budget crisis.

“Today we start a new fiscal year and we do not have funding to continue the operation of facilities the way we have been,” said Larrabee. “State Parks, like every other agency, is reducing operating costs.”

She said in addition to providing restrooms, a number of the departments operations will be cut back on due to the budget cuts, including grass mowing, and the maintenance of trails and pavilions.

“It seems to me to be jumping the gun,” said Assemblyman John McEneny D-Albany. He referred to the move as “heavy handed” and likened it to previous reports of parks’ canceling camping reservations based on the governor’s budget, as opposed to the enacted budget, which has yet to be voted on.

“It’s really putting pressure on the local public, and the local taxpayer,” said McEneny. “Canceling reservations in parks before they have a budget, that’s heavy handed. Closing bathrooms is heavy handed.”

McEneny also noted that both the Senate and Assembly versions of the budget include full restorations of funding to the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation.

Although both the Assembly and Senate versions of the budget including funding for parks, Larrabee said that as of now decision are made based on the executive budget.

“We have no budget in place that keeps the park open,” said Larrabee. “We understand people are going to be disappointed but we have to accept the economic reality.”

McEneny said he believes the decision to close the parks did not come from the Parks Department, but instead from the governor. “I don’t blame it on parks [department]. I think this is coming from the governor. The old adage is ‘this is coming from the second floor.”

McEneny said the governor is trying to exert pressure on the legislature to make cuts or raise taxes. “I think this kind of pressure is counterproductive,” he said.

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