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Source: The Jamestown Post-Journal

Parks’ Future Relies On Bill’s Passage


Posted: May 26, 2010
Originally Published: May 25, 2010

The barricades at Long Point could likely come down, meaning the marina won't be the only piece of the state park open this summer.

News came Monday of a proposal by Gov. David Paterson to keep all of New York's parks and historic sites open through next March, including the coming Memorial Day holiday.

Paterson sent a bill to the Legislature to keep parks and historic sites open under their usual hours with services, parking and other facilities, The Associated Press reported Monday.

Agreeing to the bill, though, means the Legislature will have to cut $6 million from the Environmental Protection Fund. Legislators try to protect the fund and the environmental and public health programs it funds, but the fund has been "raided" several times in recent years to bolster the general fund.

"I'm happy to see that the parks funding may be restored," Steve Hayes said Monday afternoon. "I just think it's unfortunate there's still political theatrics involved in it, as it's being framed as a raiding of the environmental fund."

A Bemus Point resident, Hayes started the "Friends of Long Point" Facebook page and organized a rally in February to help try and save the state park.

"We had a great rally and we got lots of interest," Hayes said. "I want to thank all the supporters and people like Cathy Young and Greg Edwards that really stood up and spoke out and who have tried to make a difference in this whole fight."

However, even in light of Monday's news, Hayes said he and those who have fought for Long Point in recent months will have to remain politically active in the coming years.

"Even if the parks open, we ought not to think our mission is accomplished," Hayes said. "We need to stay actively involved and be informed about our state budget and not just react to it in situations like this. We need to stay ahead of it and avoid these kind of emergencies in future years."

Hayes went on to criticize the framework of Monday's news as "politicians still playing politics."

Calling it a "polluted plan," Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the group Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the governor's plan is a simple trade off of open parks at the expense of dirty water.

"The governor's proposal is nothing more than a Bernie Maddoff ponzi-scheme that robs Peter to pay Paul and in turn, threatens successful and critical on-going programs that protect clean water at its source and provide countless environmental protections and jobs," Esposito said. "Since 1993, the EPF programs provide New Yorkers with clean water to drink, open spaces to play, and clean air to breathe. Citizens Campaign for the Environment is committed to keeping New York's state parks open for everyone and believes the legislature must restore funding for parks and the EPF. Open parks cannot come at the expense of clean water and it is the responsibility of the legislature and governor to be sustainable stewards of both."

The way Hayes sees it, fighting over money from the parks and EPF is small potatoes compared to the state's bigger costs.

"We have millions and millions of dollars of waste and fraud and overspending in the state's big-ticket budget items that people are afraid to address for political reasons," Hayes said. "Until those are tackled, we're going to be fighting budget after budget for these small potatoes, if you will. We really ought not to be caught up in this mess."

Removing the issue of parks funding would eliminate one of the stumbling blocks in negotiation for a 2010-11 budget that is expected to be more than $130 billion.

Legsilators were initially expected to pass Paterson's bill quickly, but it was met with criticism Monday afternoon by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and others.

Silver said Paterson should not be using the state's parks and historical sites as a negotiation tool.

"We believe that parks are very important. We should open the parks. There's no reason to hold the parks hostage," the Manhattan Democrat told reporters in Albany. He went on to criticize the "either/or" choice of parks or Environmental Protection Funding.