Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston, reported this week she is continuing her fight to keep Wilson-Tuscarora and Joe Davis state parks open by pushing for passage of a bill that would keep them operating through the end of the fiscal year, ending March 31, 2011 (A.11013). Specifically, the measure would require the state Office for Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to use funding allocated to them in the budget extenders to maintain the same level of services provided as last year.
"We can't simply shut down 55 parks and historic sites based on a budget proposal," Assemblywoman DelMonte said. "It's both unfair and unwise to close these parks, which generate $1.9 billion a year and are essential to supporting New York's economy, especially when the Assembly and Senate have pledged to keep them open in the final budget."
Joseph Davis and Wilson-Tuscarora state parks, both slated to close under the governor's plan, are two of 11 state parks in DelMonte's district. The 11 parks provide 4,701 jobs and generate $569 million a year for Niagara County. Parks usage has grown in recent years, up by 2 million visitors last year alone, as families seek affordable recreation and entertainment options during the economic downturn.
"This is the first time parks in New York state have been closed due to budget constraints. Even the unprecedented challenges of the Great Depression didn't shut them down," DelMonte said. "Now, more than ever, the local economy and Niagara County families need the parks to remain open."
In March, DelMonte organized a well-attended save-the-parks rally at Wilson-Tuscarora State Park. She also introduced legislation that would require the state to issue reports and conduct public hearings prior to closing state parks and sites (A.10452).
"Tourism is the backbone of the Niagara County economy, and promoting and supporting the tourism industry is critical to the economic health of the entire state," DelMonte said. "We know that the state parks generate more money than they cost to run, five dollars to one, so it makes no sense that the governor would shut them down to save money. It doesn't work that way. Closing the parks will cost New York billions in much-needed revenue, and we need to do whatever we can to keep them open."