Today, the NY State lawmakers passed a bill funding the state parks for this year. While I’m sure that various lawmakers are patting themselves on the back about having “saved the parks” just in time for the Memorial Day holiday, and the news media is reporting that the parks will open in time for the holiday, it’s not quite the reality. In my last post, I said that it’s almost too late for the parks this year. It definitely is for this holiday weekend, although I’m sure that the state park crews will do their utmost.
Why would I say that? Why am I not jumping for joy? Because the drawn-out battle has done serious damage to the park system. Here’s a report from an Albany television station, showing Thatcher State Park. It’s a mess. Overgrown grass and weeds, the facilities need a major cleaning. and trails are not safe. It’s not just this park, it’s others in the same boat. What makes it worse – even crippling, is the personnel situation.
Statewide, 85 year-round workers have been moved to other parks. The state has held off hiring 250 seasonal employees and 130 lifeguards. Since the list came out, 350 camping reservations statewide have been canceled.
That’s bad enough, but then there’s this:
Beaches are a different story. For them, there will be a point of no return, Hiltbrand said. It takes time to hire lifeguards and test water. Both of those things would have been done already for Selkirk Shores, on the closed list. If the budget goes much past June, it will be hard to make up for that lost time. Lifeguards will have found other jobs.
In other words, workers must be transferred back to their original parks, seasonal workers must be hired to replace them at the parks they just left. That’s assuming that the seasonal workers are still interested and available, of course. Beaches may not be able to find lifeguards, necessitating the continued closure of those facilities. The idea that a park can “just open” is not even close to a reality. As the Albany television report stated, it may be up to two weeks (or longer) before Thatcher Park is mostly reopened. It may be even longer to get the other parks fully reopened, and even then, swimming and beach facilities may not open at all.
As I said in earlier post, it takes a lot of work to get a park ready for the summer months. There is a timing to the process. All of that has been delayed, or seriously disrupted. The delays have caused serious damage to our park system and their staffs. While we may feel happy that the legislature finally recognized how important the park system is to the people of New York, we should not be happy about the damage they’ve done to our parks. The really sad thing? This is only a one year reprieve. We’re going to see it again next year. I wish it wasn’t going to be that way, and I hope things do change. But until they do, and our parks have a reliable source of funding and support, they’re going to continue to be used as political footballs.