In December I wrote about how across the country, state parks were coming under pressure from dwindling budgets due to the recession (Across the Country, State Parks under Pressure). Six months later, we are in no better shape than we were at the start of the year, with a number of states still contemplating the closure of their state parks in order to help close budget deficits.
Leading the charge in state park closures, and generating the bulk of the headlines, is California with a plan to cut 220 of their 279 state parks. Arizona came close to closing all but two of their parks, just prior to the Fourth of July Holiday and, while the parks received a last-minute reprieve, there is still no state budget and many could close next month. In Nebraska, 55 state parks are likely to see budget shortfalls leading to a reduction in services and maintenance. New York, Massachusetts, Georgia, Illinois, and Utah state parks are also facing cuts to their state parks.
“This month, we’re going to be OK,” said Arizona Parks Department legislative liaison Jay Ziemann. “But shortly after, we’re going to need our operating budget.”
It is unfortunate that in these tough economic times, when an increasing number of families are turning to their state parks for a lower-cost vacation in order to stretch tight family budgets, that politicians are set to yank the rug out from under the very people they purport to serve.
Our parks do not enjoy broad corporate support, like procurement programs, and they are not large employers, like many other state agencies, so they do not garner strong support from the public employee unions, either. When it comes to supporting our state parks, it really is up to us: the voting public. A letter from a constituent is still just as powerful as any high-powered lobbyist and it is the best way to remind our representatives that our park system enjoys broad public support.
Nice information about state park. But if you added some more points, it could be more useful..
It was about 8 or 9 years ago that a portion of Tennessee’s State Parks were closed or were open only on the weekends. Hard to believe since Tennessee’s Parks recently won the best state park system in the US. They are still woefully underfunded. I think the Friends organizations and associations have really stepped up to help out with maintenance and improvments here.
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Ugh, this is disheartening. Just got back from an amazing trip to the Grand Canyon and Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Sad that these are the kind of things that become low priority.
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Nancy – that is an excellent point that is often lost in the debate. There are numerous small businesses around our parks that rely on the stream of visitors drawn there.
John – that’s a great organization and they also have a page on Facebook.
Roy, this is an important issue and I’m glad you’re covering it.
People interested in helping California State Parks, which are under major threat of closure by the governor, should visit the California State Parks Foundation at http://www.calparks.org/
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Another big point to make when you write your legislator is that State Parks have a big impact on the local economy. In Virginia, for every tax dollar spent (about $2 per citizen) we return more than $11 in the economic impact from Tourism alone. This does not include the money that goes into the local economies from the staff that work in the park and the goods and services that the parks procure. So even if the legislator looks only at the fiscal point of view, parks make more for the state than they cost.