Are our state's beautiful public places, such as Lake Awosting at Minnewaska State Park Preserve, about to be made off-limits to the public?
May 28: Deal Keeps Parks Open at Expense of New York Environment
On the eve of the Memorial Day weekend kick-off to the unofficial summer season, legislators and the governor, under intense public pressure to keep state parks open, announced a deal to do just that.
State Parks will get the $11 million needed to keep them open. That's the good news, and it was achieved by thousands of citizens-including Trail Conference members-- telling their representatives to protect our parks.
The bad news is that in exchange, the Environmental Protection Fund, which pays for land, water, and air protection measures across the state, will be reduced to $134 million from the $222 million it was at in 2009/10. This disproportionately large cut of almost 40% comes on top of the nearly $500 million that has been swept from the EPF in recent years, and which has created a significant backlog of unfunded projects, straining organizations, municipalities and others partnering with the state on environmental programs.
The Trail Conference supports State Parks AND the EPF and we will continue to do so. We welcome and thank you for your continued support.
Legislators Move to Keep Parks Open
Legislation has been introduced, sponsored by Senator Serrano (S.7776-A) and Assemblyman Englebright (A.11013-A), that would require the State Parks agency to maintain operations funding at the same level as last year. This would allow all parks to open until a 2010 state budget is passed. The bill is on the Senate floor, but is still in the Assembly Ways & Means Committee. Please take a few minutes to contact your Senator and Assembly member now and urge them to support this legislation.
May 17: State Begins Closing Parks, Reducing Park Services
More than a month after the start of the 2010-11 fiscal year, with no agreement on a budget yet in place, the state began closing 37 parks and 14 historic sites listed as targets in mid-February, and reducing services at others. Click here to see the list of affected parks in our region.(Four parks slated for closing among 41 originally targeted will be kept open by private donations or county investment.) Click here for full official list of targeted parks.
March 22: Senate May Vote on Budget Today
Our colleagues at Parks & Trails New York reported that the NYS Senate may vote on the budget today. Call your senator now. Find contact info below.
March 12: Your Voice Still Needed for Parks
Budget negotiations continue in Albany. Keep up the pressure on your representatives. Use the links below to find their contact info; also below is a sample letter.
Save Our Parks Lobby Day Planned for March 3 in Albany
Click here for details.
February 21: Park Closures: More to the Story
February 19: State Releases List of Parks to be Closed
Click here for story.
February 19: First List of Parks Targeted for Closing
Parks in yellow would be kept open if fee increases go into effect and if $5 million from the EPF is diverted from intended environmental purposes to pay for park salaries. The Trail Conference opposes this use of EPF money and supports adding $16 million to the parks budget to keep ALL parks open without raiding the EPF. We also support full funding of the EPF. Click here for list.
The budget submitted by Governor Paterson treats parks and open space as expendable items for our residents and our economy. In 18 months, the budget for State Parks will have been cut by 40%. The governor's own state parks commissioner, Carol Ash, is warning that if the budget is adopted as proposed, many parks will close. (THE LIST OF PARKS TO BE CLOSED WAS RELEASED ON FEB. 19. CLICK ON NEWS LINKS BELOW FOR DETAILS.)
• This despite the fact that the state's residents have flocked to state parks in greater numbers these past two years. (According to New York Parks & Trails, the number increased 2 million from 2008 to 2009.)
• This despite documentation that our exceptional state parks attract out-of-state tourists and generate up to $2 billion in economic activity.
• This despite the fact that New Yorkers demonstrate their love for parks with sweat equity, with thousands of volunteers from the Trail Conference, Friends groups, and school, Scout, and other organizations regularly working on trails and other park infrastructure and facilities.
EPF To Be Slashed; Land Buys To End;
In addition, the governor proposes further slashing the Environmental Protection Fund by a third. He proposes allocating NO MONEY for open space. This budget, along with the moratorium put in place last year, stops the transfer of lands protecting trails across the state.
*Feb. 19: The governor also proposes to offload some funding for state parks and other programs into the EPF, further diluting the Fund's effectiveness.
This short-sighted proposal would turn the state's back to its own list of priority conservation land acquisitions as identified in its 2009 Open Space Plan. Lands deemed crucial for protection of our water, wildlife, soil, and recreation opportunities will have no ready buyers other than developers if this proposal is approved by legislators.
If you love our parks...
if you use our parks...
if you volunteer in parks...
the time to speak up for parks and the environment is now!
We strongly urge anyone with an interest in parks and the environment to contact the governor and your state representatives now and speak up in their defense. Contact links and a suggested letter are provided below.
Suggested letter for Trail Conference members/supporters
Adapt and personalize with your own experiences and views.
Dear [your representative]:
I am a park lover, user, and supporter of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and I strongly oppose proposals to further cut state funding for our parks and environmental protection and urge you to do the same. I recognize the need for New York State to stabilize its finances and reform its operations. The budgets for parks and the EPF have already contributed more than their fair share to these efforts.
Cuts of 40% over less than two years to State Parks, of 30% to the EPF, including a 100% cut to open space preservation, and the decimation of the Dept. of Environmental Conservation do not add up to fiscal constraint-they add up to irresponsible resource management.
What agency other than the state can provide residents with resources such as Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Harriman State Park, Fahnestock and Hudson Highlands State Parks, the Forest Preserve in the Catskills and Adirondacks, and so many more? The state and its elected representatives have a duty to keep these parks open, safe, and enjoyable for the public.
I am proud that as a member of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference I am supporting volunteer work in our parks that keeps their trails open for public use. I urge you to oppose this new round of proposed cuts to our parks and EPF and to work to restore funding for these irreplaceable treasures.