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Remember: The State Budget is going to close State Parks

Monday, June 1, 2009

The State Budget is going to close State Parks

This is an article from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,dated May 14th 2009:

Families, Outdoor Enthusiasts Would Miss Out on Popular Destinations; Businesses Relying on Visitors Will Suffer Millions in Losses
HARRISBURG (May 14, 2009) — The millions of visitors who flock to Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests to relax and experience nature’s beauty would have fewer opportunities to do so under a budget plan that passed the Senate last week.
If enacted, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources acting Secretary John Quigley said the Senate proposal will force the agency to close at least 35 state parks and 1,000 miles of state forest roads, which would sharply reduce access for anglers, hunters and hikers.
Under Senate Bill 850, an additional $19 million would be cut from DCNR’s budget beyond the difficult but prudent reductions Governor Edward G. Rendell proposed in February.
“Families that cannot afford to take a vacation because of the tough economic times could always count on enjoying a little rest and relaxation at a nearby state park or forest,” said Quigley. “However, if the Senate’s budget proposal is enacted, there would be even fewer of those opportunities as we would have to close a number of state parks. That means less traffic and fewer dollars being spent in the rural communities with businesses and jobs that count on these parks and forests.
“The Senate’s proposal would be absolutely devastating to these rural areas and to our efforts to preserve our natural resources for present and future generations. In contrast, the Governor’s budget proposal reflects the difficult economy we now face and would still allow us to provide a quality outdoor experience for our citizens and visitors,” Quigley said, also noting that closing 35 state parks would turn away more than 3 million visitors and wipe out at least $57 million in visitor spending on products and services in nearby communities.
Many other programs that enhance a visitor’s experience at a state park or forest, protect natural resources, or help communities offer more recreational opportunities also would suffer under the Senate’s proposal. About 40,000 acres of forest would be vulnerable to gypsy moths because the department will not be able to apply treatments, while a program that offers one million tree seedlings for purchase by landowners would be eliminated. The seedling program helps protect watersheds, control soil erosion, reclaim former mining areas, and provide food and cover to wildlife.
In addition, DCNR would likely remove state forest rangers who serve as the primary contact for visitors and who promote safety and enforce the law on forestlands. Local governments and communities that depend on DCNR for important topographic, geologic and technical information, as well as help with 1,000 active grants for parks, trails and other recreational developments will receive less help under the Senate’s proposal.
Quigley also noted that the Senate’s plan does not restore funding for the department’s heritage tourism grants, despite repeated criticisms by the caucus when Governor Rendell made the difficult decision to cut the program.
Pennsylvania has 117 state parks and 2.1 million acres of state forests, including 3,000 miles of roads that provide access to the forests.

So, 19 million gets cut and we lose 35 state parks. In turn, local communities lose 57 million dollars and the parks themselves are put in danger by invasive environmental hazards. Some state employed rangers are apparently going to lose their jobs as well under this new budget.

WFMZ reports that Ralph Stover State Park in Bucks County is under the knife and may be one of the parks closed as well as the nearly local Delaware Canal State Park.

This is a major and potentially devastating loss to Pennsylvania. Governor Rendell in this budget seems to favor a slashing and burning of state resources to make even. I’m not the biggest fan of our Governor given his unfavorable remarks concerning the potential of the Allentown WaterFront. (See This.)

The slash and burn state budget gives us as citizens of Allentown a reason to celebrate our park system even more than we already do. The city is planning renovations and upgrades but most importantly they are planning to keep our parks open.

The potential in these places is limitless and looking at the calendar events for Lake Nockamixon State Park confirms it with sold out event after sold out event.

As in the WFMZ article, we can only hope that this is a one year budget and the parks closed this year will quickly reopen next summer. We can also hope that someone with a forward thinking mentality in Harrisburg figures out different programs to start in our state parks that will allow greater visibility of the parks to the citizens of this state that turn a profit large enough that the parks become self sustaining.

We’ll see….



Anonymous Jocelyn said...

Very interesting. I'm one of those that sees the value in parks in more than one way. I'm a bare-bones government kind of girl, but there are responsibilities that the government has to its people. From a purely economic standpoint, a park makes our community more or less desirable and improves our property value. They draw people to places we otherwise may not go and improve the traffic to business in remote areas and provide a place for businesses like campgrounds to thrive. Besides the fact that I enjoy our state parks regularly, even a purely hands-off person like me can see the logical value in having them in our community or state.

June 1, 2009 at 9:04 PM  

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