A new proposal from a park advocacy group suggests steps to restore funding and protect New York state parks.
The Alliance for New York State Parks and Parks & Trails New York say establishing a new dedicated funding stream for the parks system is essential to ensure state parks' viability.
Parks & Trails New York director Robin Dropkin says an independent study shows that "for every dollar that the state invests in the state park system it gets back five." She contends that "when you close parks, especially in upstate New York, it really hurts the local economy."
The report comes as Albany considers closing the Knox Farm State Park near Buffalo. Former Parks Commissioner turned advocate Carol Ash says the state should mimic other revenue programs from across the country. She highlighted efforts in Montana, where drivers can pay an optional fee when registering their motor vehicle. The funds raised in that effort have made it possible to keep admission to all the states' parks free. In Washington DC, a five cent surcharge is added for plastic bags, which Ash says "has the dual benefit of taking those plastic bags out of the waste stream, as well as then supporting the cleanup [of state parks]."
The group says parks need investments of one billion dollars over the next ten years for repair and safety. Ash called the plans "tough but realistic...that if implemented, will not only rejuvenate our park system but will serve as a catalyst for local economies statewide." The State Parks Department did not return our request for comment.