Monday, May 17, 2010
Some state Parks being padlocked today! Victoria Pool still in danger.
Thanks to all who have acted already. Keep the pressure on. albany is watching:
if you have not signed or written yet: be sure and sign petition to keep victoria pool open and write to your state legislators, governor, congressman and senators.
www.gopetition.com put victoria pool under search petitions.
Padlocked parks lock out sense
First published: Monday, May 17, 2010
Despite all the cheery assurances this could never happen, the padlocks go on John Boyd Thacher State Park on Monday.
If ever there was an exclamation point as to how dismal and rudderless the Paterson administration has become, this is it. There is simply no good or defensible reason for closing our state park system, not even one unit. There are so many half measures that could be taken to keep the parks and historic sites going under reduced circumstances -- if the administration really wanted to keep them open.
It surely can't be about the alleged $11 million or so the state would save, considering all the fees and revenues that will now be lost because state parks are closed, and that's not the half of it.
Long Island Assemblyman Steve Englebright, who chairs the committee in his house that oversees parks, expressed extreme frustration with the governor and his senior staff, and gives us the real bottom line.
"If we close our parks, we may as well put up neon signs at the four corners of the state that say, 'Closed for Business.' Because parks are integral to tourism, and tourism is big, big business in New York State."
Parks are just not a priority in this administration. As stupefying as that is for those of us who live north of the Tappan Zee bridge or east of Queens, that's just the way it is. So the majority of our state parks, 91 of 178, are closing now, like Thacher. For how long, who knows?
And in all likelihood, another 34 will close before summer if the governor doesn't get legislative approval to take $5 million from the Environmental Protection Fund. That second list includes Grafton and Cherry Plain State Parks, and Victoria Pool at Saratoga State Park.
All in all, just a lousy state of affairs that accomplishes nothing other than making a hurting public suffer a little more.
Last year, our state campgrounds were overflowing with New Yorkers who took local vacations. If the governor doesn't relent on this parks business, or the Legislature doesn't act to force the issue, thousands of people will be left stranded without campgrounds this summer. So far, the state has taken 3,000 reservations for Parks-run campgrounds for this coming season. If the parks close, those reservations will be meaningless, except that the concessionaire that runs the reservations system for the state will be paid $18 for every reservation canceled.
Those of us who know and love Thacher still hope whatever happens there will be temporary, that a new budget when finally passed will save it. Or that a legislative bill on the fast track will have the same effect. Englebright in the Assembly and Jose Serrano in the Senate are circulating a bill that will force the governor to keep the parks open, setting up a potential confrontation if the governor vetoes the bill. If both houses pass it in the first place. If, if, if.
Realistically, while there well may be light at the end of the tunnel for saving parks, we're not seeing it yet. There are just too many twists and turns in that tunnel to say with confidence this story will have a happy ending.
As many have pointed out, closing Thacher Park is easier said than done. Sure, we don't need the locked bathrooms. We can ignore the overgrown grass and hop over barriers if need be. But it's just not the same. You just don't put a lock on a sanctuary door, whether it's a park or church, and expect the public or parishioners to be anything less than outraged.
From the perspective of the Office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, it is a grim lose-lose situation. The state agency is not calling the shots on this disaster. That's being done directly by the second floor of the Capitol, the governor's people. Yet the agency is being pummeled by an irate public, pressured by the Legislature and beaten up by the governor's henchfolk to do their bidding.
And for dessert, the agency that was created to make the public feel good about its parks gets to tell that same public to go away. In addition, a place like Thacher is an enormous liability to the state when there are crowds around and lots of staff. Imagine trying to police such a place, with its miles of palisades and hidden places, under the coming circumstances. The potential for something very nasty to happen looms large.
State government is in such a state of leaderless chaos at the moment, who knows what's next and how it affects the parks situation?
Steve Englebright says the weekly extender bills drafted by the governor and approved by the Legislature included funds to keep the parks open. But the governor used them for something else.
This has led to what Englebright insists is a bipartisan effort in both houses to mandate use of those funds for parks.
But, as Englebright points out, on Monday we're likely to see another extender bill and who knows what will be in it, now that state worker furloughs are in limbo?
Parks may take a backseat again.
Contact Fred LeBrun at 454-5453 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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