When Gov. David Paterson began putting cuts into his budget earlier this year to try to make the bottom line look something close to palatable, he set off round after round of protests and advocacies. In this region, two of those departmental cuts wounded especially deeply: prisons and state parks.
One of the prisons -- Moriah Shock Incarceration -- and the three parks were allowed to remain open after all, to the glee of the employees and the people in those areas who rely on the vitality the facilities engender.
The parks that were to be closed were Point au Roche in Beekmantown, Macomb in Schuyler Falls and the John Brown Farm in Lake Placid.
Obviously, no one wanted any closures or significant cuts in their geographic area, but those four operations seemed especially badly conceived. A loud din of objection arose from all corners of the state, but, for the most part, the cuts had to be made because of the desperate fiscal straits in which the state found itself.
As it turned out, Moriah earned its pardon with a record of success. The three parks earned theirs with prospects for unprecedented use because of the very recession that had threatened it in the first place.
In fact, park attendance has soared this summer. The State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation says attendance is up 1.3 million visitors this year over last -- 11 percent. That translates to revenue for the state that would have been forfeited if the parks hadn't opened.
Parks Commissioner Carol Ash pointed out in a news release that over the July Fourth holiday, parks were 90-percent full. And sales of the park system's $65 annual pass, the Empire Passport, have increased 1.5 percent over 2009. More than 40,000 passes were sold this year.
"New Yorkers love their state parks and strongly connect with the variety of experiences and adventures these special places provide," Ash said. "The Find Your Fun campaign will build on that momentum all summer long by promoting awareness of the parks and sites and encouraging people to both visit their favorites as well as discover new properties and activities."
The full parks and campsites mean more than revenue for the state, of course -- which, incidentally, is reason enough to rejoice over the decision to keep them open. They also add to the prosperity of the locales in which they are situated. Campers and visitors buy supplies, shop, take tours and sometimes dine in restaurants. So the North Country profits by having the venues to attract visitors.
And the visitors themselves are looking for economical ways to spend vacation time. Campsites answer that need.
The recession has been bad for all of us, in many, many ways. But it's a little bit less bad when you offer ways to stretch dollars, and camping is one of the best at doing just that.