Written by Mike Polansky, President, Greater Long Island Running Club Friday, 26 February 2010 00:00
Albany is playing games again, and it looks like those of us who enjoy our state parks might be the losers!
The governor’s 2010-2011 budget calls for a 20 percent cut in the amount allotted for [New York] State Parks. What that means is that programs are going to be cut, and many state parks, including Heckscher, Valley Stream, Hempstead Lake and others here on Long Island, may be closed and dramatic cuts in hours and available services will be made at Connetquot and even at Jones Beach and Bethpage. Both environmental programs and recreational programs such as the State Parks Summer Run Series and State Parks Winter Run Series could be on the chopping block.
Compounding the problem is that none of the bureaucrats in the governor’s office seem to be willing to give the public any firm official word as to what is planned.
Over the past two years, the state parks system has lost more than 850 permanent and seasonal staff, and equipment, maintenance and other operational areas have suffered equivalently. Whatever “fat” was in the operating budget has long since disappeared, and what’s being discussed now will seriously impact the heart and soul of our parks.
Leaving aside the direct and immediate interest of Long Island runners and walkers in preserving and maintaining our beleaguered state parks system, I understand that more that $400 million in economic activity and nearly 4000 jobs in the private sector are tied into the state parks programs on Long Island alone, and our state parks generate $5 for the local economy for every $1 invested in them. In short, drastic cuts in the state parks budget are bad economics as well as bad politics.
It is very important that each one of us contact our representatives in the New York State Senate and New York State Assembly. Regardless of what the governor has proposed, no cuts can be made unless these legislators agree.
If you care about state parks on Long Island, if you care about environmental and recreational programs, please contact your State Assembly member and your State Senator, and let them know in very strong terms that the proposed cuts to state parks are not acceptable, and that your vote in November will be determined by their vote on the proposed cut to the state parks budget. Tell them that no state budget is acceptable that will result in parks being closed or the state park’s environmental or recreational programs being eliminated. The squeaky wheel very much gets the grease, and it’s up to all of us to become one very big and very squeaky wheel!
Petitions are fine, but nothing is as effective as individually composed and sent letters or emails!
If you don’t know who your state assembly member or senator is, and/or if you don’t know how to contact them, go to assembly.state.ny.us/mem/ and nysenate.gov to find out. Time is short and the situation has never been this dire.
See you on the roads, the trails, the track, and (maybe) at the state parks!