Monday, March 15, 2010

Why Keeping All Of New York's State Parks Open Is Important

Save Our State Parks

New York's State Parks face an unprecedented crisis. For the first time in the history of NYS, Governor Paterson is closing State Parks--as many as 90 will potentially shut their doors this spring. Not even during the Great Depression did our state parks close. In fact, FDR made them a vital part of our nation’s economic recovery.

Contact your legislators. Ask them to:
1. Restore $11 million to State Park’s operating budget to prevent closing dozens of State Parks and Historic Sites. 

2. Provide $27 million for State Parks Capital Projects, either within the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), State Park Infrastructure Fund (SPIF), or by providing a third year of bonded capital funding for State Parks. Restore the EPF to $222 million, 2009-2010 levels.

Talking Points:
 Why State Parks Are Important 
1. State Parks provide affordable, close to home recreational opportunities. Last year more than 56 million people visited New York State Parks--2 million more than the previous year. 

2. Closing parks will hit surrounding communities hard. Parks are economic engines that annually generate $1.9 billion and 20,000 jobs (not including park staff). The benefits State Parks provide New York far outweigh their cost. 

3. State Parks make up a mere one-quarter of one percent of the total state budget. For every dollar New York spends on parks, our state’s economy enjoys a five dollar return. When you close a park or historic site, you save some expenses, but you also lose revenue (entrance fees, camping fees, picnic shelter rentals, etc – all park revenues remain with the agency).

4. Every $1 million in park closings generates only $650,000 in net budget savings. Closing State Parks would be disastrous for New York’s families and economy.

State Parks Operating Budget: Background 
5. The latest cuts would mean that State Parks operating budget will have been cut by nearly 40% over the past two years. The agency has already lost 1,000 permanent and seasonal workers. This year the governor proposed to cut the operating budget by about $25 million.

6. Only $11 million is required to keep parks open--less than half the proposed cut. State Parks and Historic sites have suffered more than their fair share of cuts. Despite a larger overall statewide budget this year, they received about 22% in cuts to their state operations funding.

State Parks Capital Initiative 
7. Decades of underinvestment in the State Park System has led to a critical capital backlog that exceeds $650 million. Many of the projects in desperate need of capital funding are those that impact public health and safety - i.e. sewers, drinking water systems, bridge replacement.

8. Environmental Protection Fund Governor Paterson’s budget proposal for FY2010-11 disproportionately cuts the EPF by 33%, from $222M to $143M. The funding must be restored to $222M.

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