New York Budget Proposals Would Close Many State Parks in 2010, End Land Acquisition

Update date: 
May 28, 2010
Issue in brief: 

Laurel at Lake Awosting, Minnewaska State Park Preserve

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.

Click here to read the full statement by the group Friends of New York's Environment on the State Parks/EPF legislative agreement.


May 19: 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. 

Trails Advocacy Day Set for March 10 in Albany

Click here for details.

Save Our Parks Lobby Day Planned for March 3 in Albany
Click here for details

February 21: Park Closures: More to the Story
Click here.

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.

Click here to download a pdf with additional information about the EPF.

Click here to go to our web page on the EPF.

Governor Paterson (click here for contact info)

Your Assembly representative (click here to find yours)

Your State Senator (click here to find yours)

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.



Related News Links: 

Comment: Please be relevant, civil, non-commercial.

Anni's picture

Thank you for bringing this to everyone's attention. I have set up some social networking accounts to try and save John Boyd Thacher State Park, one of the many parks these budget cuts would close. I would like to organize a protest at the state capital. Facebook: Twitter: Gmail: [email protected]
malloydamore's picture

I saw your Thatcher Park group on fb but I wonder if fragmenting into all our own little camps is as effective as sticking together as one big Save NYS Parks group
hollygianfrancesco's picture

Listen we cant let crazy greedy New PEOPLE come in to save money to put in their personal accounts so they can go all over the world and us little people that love NEW YORK and all of its great parks and love camping. YOU CANNOT do this TO US and wish THAT all involved we reconsider the stupidity of this idea or even more so the people lives you will be affecting!
iBrock's picture

Hello, I am deeply disturbed by this news, but I need some help understanding the possible permutations if this cutting of parks comes to pass. I live on Schunnemunk Mountain, and I see that the State Park here is on the list of closures. As such, I am personally affected by this. My family and I only have to walk out of our back door to be on the trails. My son is finally of the age where we can do several hours of hiking together, and now I fear we may lose this natural haven in our backyard.

If someone could answer my questions/concerns, I would be deeply grateful.

1. If these parks are closed, will it be forever, or is this a reversible situation, perhaps by the next state administration?

2. If the parks are closed, is that an automatic opportunity for the state to sell the land to developers?

3. I will be contacting my local and state level politicians on this issue, but are there other avenues of protest? Are there any advocacy group(s) for Schunnemunk Mountain specifically?

I guess my fear here is that this is a one-way, short-term money making scheme for the Governor so that he can solve his current fiscal problems without regard to the future of our state.

Also, if anyone has more information on the park closing issue, and on Schunnemunk in particular, I would love to hear it. I will be doing a lot of research this weekend, along with an impromptu hike, while I still can.



malloydamore's picture

They won't fence the place off so you can't get in. It'll probably be just closed signs at the trail heads which the locals will ignore. The big problem is that it'll discourage all the birders and hiking clubs from the wealthier southern and eastern counties from coming to the area and spending their money here.
NJTom's picture

Since this is a budget crunch this will mean easy money for the state. Have the police ticket cars which would now be parked "illegally" in closed parks. The situation is of course absurd. Any hiker knows that park officials are practically non-existent on the trails below the Adirondacks. They could easily close the visitor centers and allow access to the trails, but that would not generate money from people who merely wish to hike at their own discretion. This is all that we do now, anyway.
joepb70's picture

iBrock... I am not an expert at any of this but these are my hunches: 1. I believe this would just be a temporary situation, possibly reversed or revised at the next budget proposals next year, at the least. 2. I think there are rumours going around that this could happen. I suppose if the state wanted to, they could sell it. However, I don't see how that would be advantageous in the long run. The parks bring in a lot of money to the state (including local communities) year to year. IF they were to start selling off parkland, expect a LOT of protests! 3. Maybe you could think about starting up a Facebook page to Save Schunnemunk. There's one that I just joined recently to Save Minnewaska. It's a really good way to network and get the word out there!
kestrel28's picture

Below is just a sampling of the letter I sent to the Governor, my assemblyman, and my senator on why state parks are important to me (I have included Schunemunk in the letter): State parks are necessary for many reasons: wildlife study, outdoor recreation, historical study (Harriman State Park has an abundance of iron mines that are fascinating in their local history); geological study: there are distinct differences in basic structure in the following: the Shawangunks (which rock climbers love); the Catskills (formed by an eroded plateau); the Adirondacks (which from what I understand are still growing in elevation due to a shift in the plate tectonics); Schunemunk Mountain State Park, which was formed by conglomerate bedrock (known as pudding stone), and is truly wondrous when one hikes on it, for it is one of THE last places that one can find the Eastern Timber Rattlesnake protected within its range. It has been exterminated in Maine and other northern areas due to private land encroachment. The rattlesnake is one good predator that feeds mainly on rodents, which have the ability to spread disease. The timber rattlesnake is a timid creature, not vicious as all snakes are portrayed in films and other propaganda. Many of our species of wildlife can be found endemic (only in New York State parks), which I find to be a great reason for keeping the parks open for tourism reasons. Ecotourism is a win-win situation, because people have enjoyed the public lands of New York State even before they became public: the Dutch, the Indians, early settlers, etc. I believe that our state park system is truly a wonderful entity that gives the young and old a rewarding, enriching experience everytime they set foot onto a state park land. I think of Ken Burns, the great filmmaker, who just recently launched a public television series on the history of our national parks. I think that in addition to our national parks, our state parks are one of the key reasons we as citizens of New York can feel proud to live here. Saratoga Battlefield State Park is also another area where history and nature prosper: it is a place where people can cross country ski, can participate in watching wildlife such as Henslow's Sparrows, and take tours of the revolutionary battlefields at Saratoga. As a constituent of the great state of New York, I am proud to be living in one of the most historical and scenic places in the country. I look forward to seeing our state parks become protected for many decades to come, for the sake of our youth, who also have the opportunity to discover what our great landscapes have to offer. Many of the great painters in American history come out of the Hudson River school: Thomas Cole (who has a mountain named after him), and Jasper Cropsey, were true lovers of the great outdoors and created visual masterpieces of places such as the Catskills and the Adirondacks. As a citizen of New York State, I cherish my state parks. Please do not close state parks; it is the one thing in many people's lives that helps sustain them physically, and spiritually. Thank you for considering my letter, and I hope that parks do not become a private entity, because everyone should benefit from the great open spaces unique to New York State.
iBrock's picture

Below is the draft of a letter I plan to email to every NYS offical I can.  I welcome any comments/feedback prior to sending it out to the world.  Thanks. 

Dear ____,

I pen this letter as a concerned resident of the great State of New York.  I am normally a quiet person, who keeps to myself and spends my free time with my family.  But now I am compelled to write out of fear:  a fear that you are about to make a tragic and potentially irreversible mistake by closing our state’s invaluable parks and historical sites.

While I am very aware that America is in the midst of a rather dramatic worldwide economic crisis, I am also aware that money is a fleeting thing.  These harsh times will pass like they always have and it is in the years that follow that history will be written.  Should our legacy be tainted by the callous abandonment of our precious and limited natural beauty and historic heritage?  Money comes and goes, but once we allow the loss of parklands or the place where General Washington bedded down with his men on their long road to independence, we will never be able to reclaim those treasures save for on the pages of history books.  This is unacceptable and if allowed to occur, our great state will never be the same.

As I travel with the Army, I often encounter folks from around the country (and the world for that matter) whose vision of New York is the suburban sprawl of the southern part of the state.  I am quick to inform them that we live in one of the most vast, scenic and beautiful states in the nation.  I show them my pictures of the Catskills, the Adirondacks and especially of my own back yard, Schunnemunk Mountain.  I sincerely hope that my sentiments will remain a reality, and not some fond, forlorn memory.

Please keep our parks and historical sites open.  Find a way to fund a legacy that transcends our generation and our current problems.  I have risked my life in defense of our great nation, and while in those far off places it is my memories of New York’s vast, green forests that help guide me through the dark times.  Do not take them away.

kestrel28's picture

Excellent, iBrock. to the point, and a good summation of how you feel. I would also send this to local papers, so you can get more people to realize that this is a reality that is happening. We can stop this as a team.