Friday, December 01, 2006

Parks in need New York state parks deserve more resources, promotion.

Democrat & Chronicle Editorial

Another Pataki Mess Eliot is going to have to deal with............andy

December 1, 2006) — Even before the election, scores of well-meaning advocates were knocking on Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer's door. Now that he's won a landslide victory, Spitzer faces the tough task of spreading limited resources among a long list of good causes that deserve more state support.
State parks are among them.State park funding has been stagnant for the past decade. During that time, 27 new parks, including Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua, have been added to the system. As a result, workers are squeezed, resources are thin and hours are being cut back. Parks are forced to put off infrastructure improvements, like bathroom fixes, that will grow more expensive the longer they are postponed.
Parks and Trails New York, a nonprofit advocacy group, is asking for a five-year $300 million capital plan for the parks system. The system, which covers 325,000 acres and hosts 1,350 miles of trails and more than 504 of the state's endangered species, certainly deserves more support.
In addition to more funding, the state parks need a better marketing plan. Modest user fees generate substantial income for the park system. That income could increase if the state did more to attract visitors to these parks. Sadly, the state park system is not prominently featured on the "I Love New York" Web site. Anyone who has driven along the Thruway in search of certain state parks or campgrounds knows signage leaves much to be desired. Poor promotion is a major reason some state parks are going underused at a time when Americans need much more exercise and fresh air.
New York, whose park system received more than 55 million visits last year, should study the efforts of states like Washington, whose residents visit state parks at around three times the rate New Yorkers do. The state should also do more to encourage "friends' groups" for the parks. In states such as California, these groups raise millions and recruit volunteers who can help keep parts of these parks open when the state can no longer staff them.
State parks, like Hamlin Beach State Park and Letchworth State Park, enhance the quality of life in this state. Spitzer should see that they receive better care.

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