August 31, 2012 - On this week’s Your Environment podcast, Erik Kulleseid, the executive director of OSI’s Alliance for New York State Parks, discusses Gov. Cuomo’s New York Works funding package, and what it will mean for state parks in the Hudson River Valley—this year and moving forward.
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While summer may be winding down, a number of long-awaited capital improvement projects are just getting underway at New York State parks. Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York Works initiative, $89 million has been allocated to the state system for park repairs, upgrades and improvements. This infusion of capital investment reversed a decades-long trend of underinvestment in state parks and historic sites.
By advancing funding for state parks under the New York Works program, Gov. Cuomo and members of the state legislature are taking action to rebuild New York’s state parks and historic sites. We all know that state parks are important community anchors and wonderful destinations for families seeking rich and diverse recreational and cultural experiences.
Now, by including this funding as a key component of his job creation agenda, Gov. Cuomo is also recognizing that parks are important sources of economic activity throughout the state.
More than 58 million people visit state parks and historic sites annually, and with these visits comes a significant economic impact.
Just look at the marvelously successful Walkway Over the Hudson and the positive impact it is having in Poughkeepsie and Highland in Ulster County.
A 2009 study commissioned by our partners at Parks & Trails New York revealed that spending at New York State parks has an estimated economic impact of $1.9 billion annually and that the economic activity parks generate contributes to 20,000 jobs statewide.
While many of these jobs are associated with serving those 58 million visitors at local hotels, restaurants and shops, a significant number come from the engineering and construction-related jobs that are being supported through capital investments at parks.
Projects getting started now through the New York Works program range from large-scale overhauls of water and sewer systems and repairs to roadways to the rehabilitation of bathhouses, swimming pools and camping areas.
In the Hudson River Valley, millions of dollars are being spent to improve park conditions. Drinking water and sewer systems are being rehabilitated at Bear Mountain State Park and Fahnestock State Park, while deteriorated group campsites are being repaired at Harriman State Park.
This year’s New York Works funding was a tremendous first step, but there’s still much work to be done.
The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has identified a backlog list at state parks and historic sites that totals nearly $1 billion, of which $461 million is associated with basic health and safety projects and $595 million with deteriorated and worn-out facilities in need of rehabilitation.
As we start to turn the corner to rebuild New York’s beleaguered state parks and historic sites, another round of New York Works funding is critical. New Yorkers deserve parks they can be proud of, rather than a system defined by failing bathrooms and bridges, crumbling trails and stonework and outdated utility systems.
The deteriorating condition of state parks was decades in the making. It will take a sustained, multi-year commitment to rebuild our broken-down parks and ensure that they are safe and inviting for generations to come.
Good jobs, restoring spectacular parks and building stronger local economies—let’s keep a good thing going with another round of state park investments!
Stream and listen to Erik on the Your Environment podcast.