More than one quarter of the state’s parks and historic sites in New York would close this year under a proposal from Gov. David Paterson to deal with the state’s fiscal woes.
The massive closures of 55 parks and historical sites would hit every area of the state and would be a devastating blow to the state’s cherished parks system, the oldest in the nation with 178 parks and 35 historic sites. Service reductions would be made at an additional 24 facilities.
The proposal comes after Paterson last month proposed lowering aid for state parks by $29 million, a 16 percent cut from the current fiscal year, to deal with an $8.2 billion budget gap.
In the lower Hudson Valley, Wonder Lake State Park in Putnam County and the Donald J. Trump State Park in Westchester County would close.
In Dutchess County, the Golfing season at James Baird State Park and Mills Norrie State Park would be reduced. The Rudd Pond at the Taconic State Park in Dutchess County would close.
The John Boyd Thatcher State Park in Albany County would close, as would the Oquaga Creek State Park in Broome County.
Six parks in the Finger Lakes would close, including Beechwood State Park in Wayne County, the Bonavista State Park in Seneca County, the Chimney Bluffs State Park in Wayne County and the Two Rivers State Park in Tioga County.
The public swimming area at Buttermilk Falls State Park in Tompkins County would close.
In Monroe County, Hamlin Beach State Park swimming would be closed three days a week. The Oak Orchard State Marine Park in Orleans County would close.
Four parks would close in Erie and Niagara counties, including Joseph Davis State Park, the Knox Farm State Park, the Wilson-Tuscarora State Park and Woodlawn Beach State Park.
“In an environment when we have to cut funding to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and social services, no area of state spending, including parks and historic sites, could be exempt from reductions,” Paterson said in a statement.
“We cannot mortgage our state’s financial future through further gimmicks or avoidance behavior.”
State lawmakers said they would fight to restore funding for parks, which reached record attendance levels last year at nearly 56 million visitors, up by 1.9 million from 2008. The parks represent a major tourism draw across the state, said Assembly Tourism and Parks Committee Chairman Steve Englebright, D-Suffolk County.
He said the state built parks during the Great Depression, not close them.
“I think that there is a real effort to close these parks, coming from the second floor (the governor’s office) and it is going to be a real challenge to stop,” he said.
“I believe that we can do restorations sufficient to keep the parks open, but we’re going to have to have an informed public reaching out to their elected representatives in the state, including and most particularly the governor.”