Tuesday, March 09, 2010

State parks are growing target as lawmakers look to balance budgets in the recession

UPDATE, March 15: A University of Tennessee study details the "significant positive impact" that the state's parks have on its economy.

The effort to balance recession-starved state budgets may have a new casualty: state parks, an important amenity and employer in many rural areas. A National Association of State Park Directors survey reveals lawmakers in at least a dozen states have contemplated the closure of up to 400 state parks this year, Casey Newton and Dennis Wagner of USA Today report. "They think, well, this is just play, it's frivolous ... but this is the worst time to be talking about closing parks," Philip McKnelly, the association's executive director, told the newspaper.

The number of parks to be closed is a moving target as budget negotiations continue. Compromises such as reducing hours and cutting staff could avert some closures, the reporters write. Arizona plans to close 21 of the state's 30 parks; New York plans to close 41 parks and 14 historic sites in addition to cutbacks at 24 more sites; California plans part-time closures of 60 parks with reduced services at 90 others after an initial plan to close 220 of the state's 278 parks was met by public outcry. There is good news for parks in at least one state; Virgina has abandoned its plan to close five sites. (Read more)

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