State to close 55 parks, historic sites on Monday

ALBANY, N.Y. - State parks officials say they'll start next week shutting down or keeping closed dozens of parks and historic sites because of New York's budget crisis.

Parks spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee says Friday that the gates at 41 parks and 14 historic sites will be locked starting Monday.

She says most of the properties were closed for the winter or had reduced services, but typically would be preparing to reopen for the Memorial Day weekend.

Larrabee says employees at the effected parks and historic sites are being transferred to facilities that are remaining open.

The Legislature has voted to restore $11.3 million in parks funding cut from Governor David Paterson's budget proposal, but there's no agreement yet on a budget.

Specific recommended closures and service reductions are detailed below:

* Johnson Hall State Historic Site (Fulton County)--Close Historic Site
* Chittenango Falls State Park (Madison County)--Close Park
* Clark Reservation State Park (Onondaga County)--Close Park
* Fort Ontario State Historic Site (Oswego County)--Close Historic Site
* Helen McNitt State Park (Madison County)--Close Park
* Herkimer Home Historic Site (Herkimer County)--Close Historic Site
* Hunts Pond State Park (Chenango County)--Close Park
* Oquaga Creek State Park (Broome County)--Close Park
* Old Erie Canal State Park (Onondaga County)--Close Park
* Oriskany Battlefield/Steuben SHS (Oneida County)--Close Historic Site
* Pixley Falls State Park (Oneida County)--Close Park
* Robert Riddell State Park (Delaware County)--Close Park
* Selkirk Shores State Park (Oswego County)--Close Public Swimming

Senator Joseph A. Griffo (R,I,C- Rome) said that the plan to close state parks and historic sites next week illustrates the depth of the state administration's "cluelessness and inability to govern."

Griffo said that last month he grilled state Parks Commissioner Carol Ash at a Senate hearing over the proposed cuts, and asked about alternatives, like leasing or selling some of the nearly two dozen state-owned golf courses to private operators as a way to plug the agency’s budget holes, an option that Ash conceded had not been considered.

“I challenged State Parks officials to think creatively and find better ways that won’t cut access to parks and historic treasures that have been developed over generations for the enjoyment, education and recreation of New York families. Closing parks and denying New Yorkers outdoor recreational opportunities—moves that even state officials admit will do more harm to already struggling local economies—is the wrong solution to fixing Albany’s budget problems,” Griffo said.

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