February 15, 2010

Crown Point forts, John Brown Farm on closure list

State budget woes threaten Crown Point, Brown Farm


CROWN POINT — A just-compiled list of state parks and historic sites that could be closed to save money includes Crown Point State Historic Site and the John Brown Farm in North Elba.

In his budget proposal, Gov. David Paterson said he wanted to cut the budget for the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation by $29 million.

The governor's action would leave an operating budget of $155 million. He directed the agency to come up with a list of parks to be closed, and an internal documents was circulated Friday.

The Crown Point and North Elba sites are among 16 parks and sites in the Saratoga-Capital Region that would be closed or have their hours curtailed.

The plan is subject to change before the final state budget is released in April.

Before the unofficial list was put together, State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash said that if the state budget were adopted as proposed, many parks would have to close.

But State Parks spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee said Monday that just because a site is on the list released Friday it doesn't mean it will be closed.

"Any list is not final. The agency is continuing its analysis of potential operational reductions in response to the financial crisis facing New York state."

She said a final list would be released in a week or two.

"We continue to review all aspects of the agency in order to identify necessary savings."

Crown Point Historic Site maintains the ruins of 18th-century forts Crown Point and St. Frederic, while the John Brown Farm was the home of 19th-century abolitionist John Brown, who is buried there.

The 150th anniversary of Brown's hanging after the raid on the U.S. arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, now West Virginia, was celebrated last year with several weeks of events, both at the farm in North Elba and at the sites of the raid and trial. Brown had hoped to arm blacks and end slavery, but he was captured and many of his followers killed during the raid. He was hanged after a trial in 1859.

Crown Point has two full-time employees, a site manager and a maintenance chief, and three to five seasonal workers.

The John Brown Farm has one full-time employee, an on-site caretaker. The site manager at Crown Point also covers the John Brown Farm.

Greg Furness was site manager at Crown Point for 25 years. On Monday, he said he was sad to hear that Crown Point Historic Site might be closing.

"Of course, it's going to hurt the community. They have already cut their hours back."

Furness said he didn't want to comment further on the situation at Crown Point and directed inquiries to current Site Manager Thomas Hughes. Hughes couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

Both historic sites are now closed for the season; under the governor's plan, they would not reopen in the spring.

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