Friends of Point au Roche State Park
Facebook: Save Point au Roche!
BEEKMANTOWN — The fight for Point au Roche State Park has begun.
Point au Roche, Macomb Reservation State Park in Schuyler Falls and the John Brown Farm in Lake Placid are among 41 parks and 14 historic sites recommended for closure by the state Office of Parks and Recreation.
The closures, announced Friday, are meant to address the office's proposed $29 million budget cut and are set to start April 1.
Mary Simmers, president of the board of directors of Friends of Point au Roche State Park, said that group is trying to determine the best way to approach the issue.
"We have to jump on this as soon as possible," she said.
The board's next meeting is March 20 at 10 a.m. at the Plattsburgh City Library. She said Kevin Kieff, regional director for the parks office, has expressed interest in attending the meeting.
Simmers would like to see information such as how much money the move will save, who will conduct maintenance and whether the rest rooms would be closed. She said there are only four full-time employees responsible for the two parks and Cumberland Head State Park, augmented by a number of seasonal, part-time employees.
"Are they taking the (New York State) Park Police away?" she asked.
Simmers said she knows what will happen if that's the case.
"It will deteriorate rapidly," she said.
Simmers said Macomb and Cumberland Head are more for camping, and locals are unlikely to camp so close by. Point au Roche is a tremendous resource for the community, with a public beach, 60 moorings, nature, hiking and biking trails and picnic facilities.
"Day in and day out, for people who want to walk their dog or use the beach, Point au Roche State Park is the place," she said.
The parks department plans to review each park to see if the public would still be allowed access. The department is considering closing the beach and day-use area but allowing continued access to the trail system.
The park has a lot of potential, Simmers said. If closed, she hopes another entity would explore its operation, such as the Town of Beekmantown.
Simmers urged supporters to start sending letters to their representatives, including Gov. Paterson, Parks Commissioner Carol Ash, State Sen. Betty Little and State Assemblywoman Janet Duprey.
Aaron Raml-Morillon, who splits his time between Plattsburgh and Montreal, created a Facebook page Friday evening to gauge what kind of support would be available to fight to keep the park funded.
"It came as a shock to hear about it being on the (closure) listing," he said. "I grew up in Beekmantown. One of my fondest memories of childhood was going to the park on weekends."
It's not just locals who appreciate the park and its scenery. When friends visit, Raml-Morillon often brings them for a tour of the park.
"It's a great place to show off the natural beauty of the area," he said.
There were 2,574 members of the Facebook group shortly after 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Raml-Morillon said the next step would be to further organize, perhaps with a letter-writing campaign or some sort of public show-of- support event. The real need is to show legislators how important parks are to the public.
Simmers welcomed those showing support on Facebook to contact her at email@example.com about joining her organization. More information is available at www.friendsofpointauroche.org.
E-mail Dan Heath at: firstname.lastname@example.org