Action Alert in Pennsylvania: They’ll take my state parks from my cold, dead hands!

(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

I apologize for the short and rushed essay, but I really want you to take action (something anyone can easily do) on this issue that is near and dear to me.

The Pennsylvania Senate’s proposed budget, SB 850, would cut the Department of Conservation and Natural Resource’s budget so much that they might have to close about 35 state parks.  With 117 state parks in PA, that’s a huge chunk, and chances are there would be a state park near you closing if you live in Pennsylvania.

Go below the fold to see how you can take action.

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Before I start…

Here’s how to take action:

1.  Contact your State Senator through PennEnvironment.

2.  Find the info to contact your State Representative and/or call your State Senator, whether by phone, email, fax, or some combination by clicking here (upper right corner after you click).

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The state park closest to my home didn’t make the “hit list,” but I’m worked up about his nonetheless.  Preserved natural areas are a great asset for their beauty, their water management, their ability sequester carbon in trees and soil, the habitat they provide, the income they provide to the state through visitors, and the inspiration they supply.  Exposing people to nature makes them more appreciative of it and can profoundly impact someone’s life.  I know that having a state park a few minutes of bike riding from my house is an amazing thing, and having it there is one of the better perks of living where I live.

Here is the list of state parks that could be on the chopping block, from Public Opinion:

The hit list

Pennsylvania State Parks identified for possible closure

Parks ’08 attendance

Bendigo 35,669

Elk 20,958

Kinzua Bridge 44,433

Blue Knob 431,738

Clear Creek 136,702

Colonel Denning 61,864

Fowlers Hollow 30,325

Big Spring Delaware Canal

(Black Eddy ONLY) 521,080

Ralph Stover 200,077

Evansburg 661,143

Greenwood Furnace 199,607

Penn Roosevelt 37,637

Whipple Dam 102,528

Kettle Creek 97,179

Ole Bull 82,444

Linn Run 195,950

Laurel Summit 23,223

Laurel Mountain 43,229

Little Pine 107,680

Hyner Run 63,350

Hyner View 36,070

Upper Pine Bottom 1,085

Memorial Lake 155,599

Swatara 64,639

M K Goddard 209,570

Mt Pisgah 64,076

Oil Creek 124,364

RB Winter 138,103

McCalls Dam 2,446

Sand Bridge 17,513

Ravensburg 30,413

Reeds Gap 64,450

Poe Paddy 38,135

Poe Valley 1,523

Ryerson Station 44,230

Sizerville 103,677

Tobyhanna 203,611

Gouldsboro 89,289

Big Pocono 112,591

Yellow Creek 203,053

White Clay 68,040

Norristown

Warriors Path 38,017

Trough Creek 61,252

Prompton 13,750

Salt Spring 30,682

Archbald Pothole 38,205

Sam Lewis 117,357

Erie Bluffs Central & Regional Offices

Source: Budget Reduction in the Bureau of State Parks provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. List dated May 20, 2009.

Here’s some more information.  From the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources:

HARRISBURG (May 14, 2009) – The millions of visitors who flock to Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests to relax and experience nature’s beauty would have fewer opportunities to do so under a budget plan that passed the Senate last week.

If enacted, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources acting Secretary John Quigley said the Senate proposal will force the agency to close at least 35 state parks and 1,000 miles of state forest roads, which would sharply reduce access for anglers, hunters and hikers.

Under Senate Bill 850, an additional $19 million would be cut from DCNR’s budget beyond the difficult but prudent reductions Governor Edward G. Rendell proposed in February.

“Families that cannot afford to take a vacation because of the tough economic times could always count on enjoying a little rest and relaxation at a nearby state park or forest,” said Quigley. “However, if the Senate’s budget proposal is enacted, there would be even fewer of those opportunities as we would have to close a number of state parks. That means less traffic and fewer dollars being spent in the rural communities with businesses and jobs that count on these parks and forests.

“The Senate’s proposal would be absolutely devastating to these rural areas and to our efforts to preserve our natural resources for present and future generations. In contrast, the Governor’s budget proposal reflects the difficult economy we now face and would still allow us to provide a quality outdoor experience for our citizens and visitors,” Quigley said, also noting that closing 35 state parks would turn away more than 3 million visitors and wipe out at least $57 million in visitor spending on products and services in nearby communities.

Many other programs that enhance a visitor’s experience at a state park or forest, protect natural resources, or help communities offer more recreational opportunities also would suffer under the Senate’s proposal. About 40,000 acres of forest would be vulnerable to gypsy moths because the department will not be able to apply treatments, while a program that offers one million tree seedlings for purchase by landowners would be eliminated. The seedling program helps protect watersheds, control soil erosion, reclaim former mining areas, and provide food and cover to wildlife.

In addition, DCNR would likely remove state forest rangers who serve as the primary contact for visitors and who promote safety and enforce the law on forestlands. Local governments and communities that depend on DCNR for important topographic, geologic and technical information, as well as help with 1,000 active grants for parks, trails and other recreational developments will receive less help under the Senate’s proposal.

Quigley also noted that the Senate’s plan does not restore funding for the department’s heritage tourism grants, despite repeated criticisms by the caucus when Governor Rendell made the difficult decision to cut the program.

Pennsylvania has 117 state parks and 2.1 million acres of state forests, including 3,000 miles of roads that provide access to the forests.

And from the Lewistown Sentinel:

LEWISTOWN – So many questions, so little answers.

Not only have the rumors swirling around proposed Senate Bill 850 caused concern for many area residents, but the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ recent announcement to close at least 35 state parks has raised some eyebrows, too.

The majority of the parks listed for closure due to Senate budget cuts are in or near Central Pennsylvania, with the amount of revenue each park generates and the attendance for each park, according to the DCNR press release.

Rep. Adam Harris, R-Mifflintown, said Gov. Edward G. Rendell’s own budget proposal that he unveiled in February proposed a 4-percent cut for state parks.

“DCNR staff confirmed at that time that this would not result in any park closures. Now, the Senate comes out with a budget proposal, SB 850, that makes a 14-percent cut and suddenly dozens of parks in rural Pennsylvania – not Philadelphia or Pittsburgh – need to be closed?” Harris said.

Sen. Jake Corman, R-Bellefonte, said he has no idea how the list was even formed.

“This is a product of the administration (the governor and DCNR), not a product of us (legislators),” he said.

He added that it is unfortunate the whole situation has come to this level of media attention.

“Without the announcement of closing parks, they don’t make a headline,” Corman said. “It’s a scare campaign.”

Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Hollidaysburg, said the current situation “is not being disputed.”

Eichelberger added that this so-called scare tactic is just what Pa. government officials want to enforce a much-needed tax increase to help raise funding for the state.

“We have a cut in our funds and that is their ultimate goal to help restore funding,” Eichelberger said. “They’re trying to engage the public to get more money for DCNR and they’re trying to blame us.”

Harris said he fully believes that even with a 14-percent cut, all state parks could remain open if that were the will of the governor.

“Using the threat of closing these parks is essentially a hammer he is using to attempt to crack the will of lawmakers who won’t support the tax increase that is needed to fund his budget proposal,” Harris said. “He hopes that calls from angry constituents will weaken us over the coming weeks as we approach the June 30 budget deadline.”

As Harris explains, SB 850 is a budget plan passed by the Republican-controlled Senate in early May. He added that it made some tough cuts, and it only spent the amount of revenue actually collected this year, which is $27.3 billion, and did not raise taxes.

The bill currently awaits a vote next week by the House Appropriations committee where the Democrats, who control the House, have more votes on the committee.

If SB 850 is defeated, Harris said the legislators will begin to negotiate a compromise between the two proposals on the table:

The Senate Republican proposal – SB 850 – which makes difficult cuts but doesn’t raise taxes, and spends $27.3 billion;

The Governor’s budget proposal of $29.3 billion, which would require a sizable tax increase to be fully implemented.

If you need an idea of what to say to your Senator and Representative, here’s the text from the PennEnvironment email (and feel free to take whatever you want from this diary):

Dear Senator,

I wanted to voice my disappointment with the state Senate’s budget proposal, SB850, which could lead to the closure of 35 state parks and forests.

Please fully fund our state parks and Pennsylvania’s conservation programs.

Thanks for acting to preserve our state parks!

1 comment

    • rossl on June 6, 2009 at 12:44 am
      Author

    Where will all the ponies live if they get rid of our state parks!?!?!?!

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