Shuffling through my photos for the past summer, I realize how spoiled rotten New Yorkers are when it comes to the great outdoors. This year I finally got to Letchworth (wish I’d gone in the fall, though) and spent a fabulous if rainy week in the Adirondacks. Letchworth is so fabulously outfitted with roads and facilities, it’s hard to believe. It’s also hard to believe that the entire state park system was scheduled for a $132 million refit thanks to the budget passed this spring… but the economic hammer has fallen so swiftly that I’m surprised they’re still going ahead with some of these projects (like Green Lakes’ new bathhouse) instead of cutting them altogether.
The worst-case scenario would be the extended or perhaps permanent closure of some of New York’s state parks. I wonder about little Pixley Falls State Park, located north of Boonville. It’s considered a satellite of the popular Delta Lake just down the road. There are less than two dozen campsites, and most of them are right on Lansing Kill, if you like fishing. The main attraction is a 50-foot waterfall that is pretty, but unspectacular in the pantheon of New York waterfalls, and a rugged trail that takes you past many charming cascades and springs with the green creek below. Just outside the park entrance is a ski trail leading past a series of uniquely situated Black River Canal locks that will make you say “How did they do that?”
As it so happens, Pixley is scheduled to close next year for critical repairs to a bridge damaged in the ’06 floods, and won’t reopen until 2010. But in the event of “permanent” park closures, Pixley’s fate would be written on the wall — the campground, I’m guessing, would almost certainly shut down, making it hard to justify a day trip up there for many people who use it.
So far, the state’s strategy has been to close some parks for the fall and/or winter, rather than shut them outright. But New Yorkers love their parks, and one such early closing — Schodack Island State Park, south of Albany — has prompted stiff citizen resistance of the “screaming bloody murder” kind. Both the Parks Department and the governor’s office have been pretty mum about the whole early-closing issue, and I haven’t been able to find a press release or list of what’s been closed, as it’s being decided on by regional administrators. Apparently only three have been closed for the winter: Schodack Island, Woodlawn and Silver Lake (all small parks).
If the Parks Department relents to pressure and reopens Schodack Island, does that mean another park in a less-politically-connected area of the state (or within the same parks region) gets shut down? And what does this sort of approach mean for a whole host of far more crucial budgetary areas, as the economy continues to worsen? I love to commune with nature in New York… but I don’t think we should be administering it via the Law of the Jungle.