Fight heats up over proposed parks closure in New York

Like most states, New York is trying to deal with a huge deficit. The latest budget proposed by Gov. David Paterson calls for cuts to practically every state service, from education to welfare to public health. Not surprisingly, people are angry and various interest groups are trying to save their share of the pie.

How is this of interest to travelers? Because the governor proposed closing 41 parks and 14 historic sites, and reducing services at 23 parks and 1 historic site. Proposed closures include such popular destinations as Brookhaven State Park in Long Island, Fort Montgomery Historic Site in the Palisades, and (get this) the Donald J. Trump State Park in Westchester. This would have saved $6.3 million. A huge public outcry made the governor reverse the proposal and restore the funding, but the state government indicated the decision isn’t final.

Now the National Parks Service has weighed in and said such a drastic cut would put the state in non-compliance with the terms by which it accepted $1.9 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and was in danger of losing that money and perhaps billions more. The Paterson administration was quick to hit back, saying New York was still in compliance and accusing the NPS of overreacting. The wrangling continues.

So just how big is New York’s deficit? According to the governor’s report it stands at $8.2 billion. The Times Union newspaper says it’s $9.2 billion. Whichever is correct, a lot of people are going to be feeling the pinch, and it’s hard to imagine the parks will not have to make any sacrifices.