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Cary Brunswick

February 26, 2010

Proposal to close parks a pointless budget cut

How much does it cost a year to own a couple thousand acres of tax-exempt land that requires virtually no maintenance?

I mean, talk about a pointless budget cut.

But the Robert V. Riddell State Park near Colliersville was one of the dozens of park closures and scale-downs announced last week by the governor and parks baroness as a way to help get out from under the gigantic state budget deficit.

Gov. David Paterson, who Friday announced he will not run for re-election, said ``the unfortunate reality of closing an $8.2 billion deficit is that there is less money available for many worthy services and programs. In an environment when we have to cut funding to schools, hospitals, nursing homes and social services, no area of state spending, including parks and historic sites, could be exempt from reductions.''

OK, no line item and no program should be exempt from the pain of the fiscal crisis, but I guarantee that most taxpayers could find other places to cut where the lowering of the deficit would be much greater and the effect on ordinary people much less.

After all, the $6.3 million saved by closing 41 parks and 14 historic sites, and reducing services at 24 others, would be a fraction of 1 percent of the state's deficit.

In fact, if the governor gave up just one trip to New York City a month, the savings surely would more than cover the costs of keeping the Riddell park open and a few others in the region placed on the proposed chopping block. They include the Oquaga Creek park south of Bainbridge and Hunts Pond in Chenango County.

The Riddell park and Hunts Pond are similar in that they have virtually no staff and require very little maintenance. They basically are places to hike, fish, snowshoe or watch birds. No swimming, pavilions or entry fees, though the pond does offer ``primitive'' camping sites.

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Cary Brunswick

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