Hawley: Closing State Parks Will Not Close the Budget Deficit

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,I,C—Batavia) released the following statement today in response to the 2010-2011 Executive Budget proposal to close 57 State Parks and Historic Sites throughout the state, including the Oak Orchard State Marine Park. According to the Executive Budget, the measure would be put in place due to reductions in the operation budget of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP).

“The planned closing of the Oak Orchard State Marine Park, and other state parks, as part of the state’s budget reduction proposal is the wrong approach and just another one of Albany’s budgetary gimmicks,” said Hawley. “Once again, Albany is forcing Upstate residents to make unfair sacrifices because the special interests in New York City won’t give up their demands. At a ratio of 33 to 1, these closures will overwhelmingly damage Upstate communities that depend on their state parks not only for local recreation and ‘staycations,’ but for support of their local economies through job creation and tourism.”

“Additionally, many parks charge admission and parking fees, which, with longer hours and a longer season, could help cover their operating costs. Closing parks and restricting operating hours is unwise at a time when the slow recovery from the recession and higher gas prices will lead many families to spend their vacation dollars in local state parks and historic sites,” Hawley continued.

Despite the announced closures, the State Assembly and Senate can allocate an additional $5 million from the Environmental Protection Fund (through a 21-Day Amendment to the executive budget) to help pay for operational costs at selected parks throughout the state. However, to date, the Orchard State Marine Park is not listed among the selected parks that would be eligible for the funds.

“If the state is serious about closing the impending budget deficits, then real budget cuts should be made; not cuts to our parks and historic sites. Earlier this month, I joined many of my colleagues, from both sides of the aisle, in sending a letter in opposition to these closures to Speaker Silver. It is my hope that the legislature will find a bipartisan solution that properly allocates the $5 million from the Environmental Protection Fund in a way that prevents any state park closures this year,” Hawley concluded.