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May 28, 2010

Local state lawmakers laud decision to open parks

PLATTSBURGH — The deal to keep all state parks open is welcome news to North Country state lawmakers.

"These park sites are very important for the people of our region and for so many small mom- and pop-type businesses," Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) said.

"For every dollar that the state spends on these parks, the community gets about $5 back."

While details of the agreement to keep the parks open were being worked out, Duprey said it seemed possible that they could be up and running by the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

"The lawns might not be mowed, but it's not like they were mothballed," she said.

Macomb State Park and Point au Roche State Park were slated for closure, as were 39 other state parks and 14 of the state's 35 historic sites.

Several Department of Environmental Conservation sites throughout the state were also targeted for closure.

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) said an agreement was reached with the DEC this week to keep the sites open.

"These sites will be open in the Adirondacks," Sayward said.

"We will have to go community by community to see what they need (to open) because some have the resources and some don't, but sites that have taken pre-registrations will be open."

Both Duprey and Sayward said the state needs to come up with a long-term solution to keeping the parks open as part of the budget process.

"This has just been ridiculous," Duprey said.

"These parks are so important for quality of life and for the economy of many communities."

Funding for the operation of the parks is coming largely from the state's Environmental Protection Fund.

"If we have to use money from that and not buy any more land then that's OK with me," Duprey said.

"We can't take care of the land we have now."

Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak, who was a regional director for the state Parks and Recreation Department for six years in the late 1990s, said the threat of closing the state parks was disheartening.

"It's a disgrace that New York state parks were being held hostage while they negotiate a budget that was due April 1," Kasprszak said.

"It's time that they (legislators) start working in the best interest of the people of the state and not special interests."

E-mail Joe LoTemplio at: jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com

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