Reforming New York’s parks system

Now that the reality of threatened park closures has had a day to sink in, maybe it’s time to take the public conversation beyond the understandable cries of protest and think about the future.

The Post-Standard, like many papers around the state this morning, is looking into the costs of keeping the parks open, but the article (which doesn’t seem to be online?) doesn’t mention what the costs are – or if property taxes paid by the state for state park land are included in the tally. I assume they are included, but as Norbrook at TAP has pointed out, property taxes and the parks are not in the public consciousness and barely mentioned by the media. The way that NY’s parks system operate — or rather systems, since they’re run by two different agencies, Office of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Environment Conservation — is probably a mystery even to regular parks patrons.

Don’t get me wrong… we need to look at this list and ask for justification why some sites are on it at all. (I’d really like to know why Lorenzo Historic Site is only on the “shadow” secondary list and why Oriskany Battlefield gets the ax. If it’s purely because people would rather have their weddings there and the facilities fees are all that matters, then come out and say that so that those of us who care about historical preservation and education know where the state’s actual priorities are going forward. Or if it’s because Cazenovians have got the political donation cash for the right people and the Mohawk Valley doesn’t… whatever.)

People also have a lot of questions about what happens to these sites when they get shut down. What about safety and security? (If you’re compiling a list of New York’s Most Deadly Ex-State Parks, I’d say Clark Reservation will probably rank high.) What about the hydrofrackers and other private interests who might have designs on this land? What assistance might the state agencies be able to provide to any municipalities that have the means and political will to take over some of these properties? How about some answers instead of a brief apologetic press release? We’re all pretty guilty of not asking and answering these questions.

One Reply to “Reforming New York’s parks system”

  1. Unfortunately, New York, and America, have been living beyond its means since about 1980, when it decided to become a rentier society instead of a productive one. We went to the casino / lottery / Wall Street values system, and when the music stopped, there was nothing left with which to pay for little pleasantries like schools, parks, and libraries. Fortunately, there’s always cable, so we can get angry with Fox or revel in the fact that we still can produce poseurs on American Idol. Either get used to it, or start demanding that we do something useful. Alas.

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