Last Sunday on my way home from Easter with some relatives, I decided to take a quick tour of one of my favorite campgrounds. If you had ever seen it in the middle of summer, it’s a beautiful place. The staff there works hard to keep things looking nice. The roads are clear, grass is mowed, sites immaculate, trails groomed, and it’s a pleasure to visit. That’s not what it looks like now. It’s been closed for the winter, and you can see the entire aftermath of an Adirondack winter. Trees are down, branches are down, there’s mud flows in various places, and washouts in others. Some of the trails leading out of it (or into it) are muddy messes with trees across them. It’s not pretty. Most people would never see it like that, because they don’t visit at this time of year. That may change this year at many parks around the state. People may see it.
Why? Because the state budget is late, and parks may not open in time for the summer. Just like the campground I visited, there is always some winter damage to parks and trails. Most people don’t visit or hike in the early spring, so they don’t get to see it. Right around now or in the next few weeks would normally be the time that park staffs report for work, that seasonal workers start. But this year, because the budget is late, and because funding has been cut, they may not report any time soon – if some of the parks open at all. Even if they do open – and they very likely will – the staffs will not be reporting in time to finish all the normal clean-up they do.
So this year, the well-groomed, “pretty” parks may not be so pretty. It’s not the park staff’s fault, it’s our elected officials’ fault. It’s time to start holding them accountable for this, because it’s something that could be avoided. Will we? I don’t know. I hope so, but for now, I know it’s not going to be pretty.