Attendance at state parks is up 3.5 percent; 1.4 million more park visitors enjoyed the 178 parks and 35 historic sites that make up the State Park System this summer than last. However, the State Parks agency had to accommodate these additional visitors on a severely reduced budget, down 18 percent from three years ago, and with 1400 fewer lifeguards, park police and maintenance workers than in 2008.
Last spring, for the first time in the state’s history, as many as 88 parks were in danger of having to close their gates. The proposal to close parks was greeted with outrage and a loud uproar from the public and local and state legislators. At the last-minute, just hours before the Memorial Day weekend began, the Governor and Legislature voted to make $11 million available to prevent park closings.
An independent study commissioned by Parks & Trails New York revealed that the NYS Park System contributes $1.9 billion annually to the state’s economy, a 5 to 1 return on investment. A healthy park system is a vital part of a healthy NYS economy.
PTNY has continued to proactively advocate for the adoption of a successful parks agenda, and recently asked gubernatorial candidates to complete a brief questionnaire designed to gauge where New York State Parks would fall on each candidate’s list of priorities.
Parks cannot again be a casualty of Albany’s political gamesmanship without hurting the parks “brand” and the state’s economy. A healthy park system is a vital part of a healthy NYS economy. The state parks budget is a mere ¼ of 1 percent of the total state budget. It is penny wise and pound foolish to keep cutting the state parks budget.