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.
Afghanistan is going green. The war-torn country has declared Band-e-Amir its first conservation area. While it may be premature to book your trip to this spectacle, at least there’s hope that you’ll get to enjoy it someday.
Band-e-Amir, like the rest of Afghanistan, has had a rough run over the past 30 years. Let’s face it: that’s how long the country’s been engaged in one war or another. The region’s snow leopards fell victim to the conflict between Soviet troops and mujahideen in the 1980s. Of course, the great Buddha statues were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
The fighting is reportedly in other parts of the country, these days, which the locals will attract foreign visitors. The lakes are the major draw, assuming you’re willing to subject yourself to a brutal daylong drive from Kabul. The destination may be billed as safe, but the journey certainly isn’t. Head into Afghanistan at your own risk.
For now, local merchants have their fingers crossed for Afghan tourists. Westerners, one would assume, would come much later.
If you do throw caution to the wind, be sure to follow the rules. Fishing with hand grenades is no longer allowed.
Among the local practices that are now banned: no more fishing with hand grenades. If you role the dice, don’t worry. The rangers tasked with enforcement are paid less than $60 a month and can be on duty for up to 24 hours at a time.