February 8, 2012 - On this week’s Your Environment podcast, Erik Kulleseid, the executive director of OSI’s Alliance for New York State Parks, speaks about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest budget proposal—one that looks to sustain the upward momentum for our state park system.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his proposed 2013-14 state budget last month, and the news is good for park-goers statewide and in the Hudson Valley. New York’s 214 state parks and historic sites are in line for another round of capital investments to repair, restore and improve the system’s aging and outdated facilities—thanks to a $90 million infusion included in the governor’s budget proposal.
These proposals are significant because they build on the momentum that was created last year when the state’s budget included a historic $143 million in funding for parks capital improvements. Combined with his commitment to five more years of funding, the governor is showing that he recognizes the long-term nature of the parks problem and how to solve it.
Many of you know that New York’s state parks and historic sites have been neglected and underfunded for decades. The backlog for capital repairs at our parks remains near $1 billion, but these moves show that there is hope on the horizon. Gov. Cuomo has demonstrated a strong commitment to restoring state parks, and his recognition that fixing and updating parks infrastructure requires a multi-year commitment is a critical recognition of the severity of the problem.
It is also worth noting that nearly all of last year’s funding has been spent or is under contract for projects aimed at repairing and improving state parks and historic sites. Park visitation was up 5 percent to 60 million visitors in 2012, and as those visitors see repairs being made, we believe this will enhance the public’s perception of its parks system, improving their overall experience. As citizens see firsthand that their parks will be there for the next generation of users, momentum and enthusiasm will continue to grow.
The Alliance is also appreciative of Gov. Cuomo’s focus on smart tourism through a greater emphasis on a more regional approach to marketing the state’s tremendous assets—particularly upstate. In doing so, the governor continues to acknowledge the important role state parks play as natural, recreational and cultural destinations for New Yorkers and out-of-state visitors, alike.
As park supporters and champions—we continue to see a bright future for our state parks and historic sites. Now, get out and visit your state parks. In the Hudson Valley, at sites like Fahnestock State Park, Hudson Highlands State Park and Bear Mountain State Park, this is the time of year to get out and cross-country ski, snowshoe, hike or track winter wildlife. I hope you’ll take advantage of the excellent natural resources our state offers.
Stream and listen to Erik on the Your Environment podcast.