Summer is a season for camping and enjoying the outdoors, and many of us take advantage of New York’s state parks to do so. Therefore, I was greatly disappointed to hear in May that a number of them are now closed or offer reduced services to the public. As of May 20, 55 of the state’s 215 parks and historic sites were being closed, nine of them in the Finger Lakes.
The action was taken as a cost-saving measure by Governor David Paterson, who states that, “New York faces an historic fiscal crisis of unprecedented magnitude.” I understand that New York is in dire straits right now, but this is nothing new. It’s just taken on new, historical proportions.
For many New Yorkers, like our graphic artist Jen Srmack, the state park cutbacks will inhibit family traditions. For the almost 70 years, Jen’s extended family has met at Alleghany State Park in Cattaraugus for an annual camping vacation. Since one of the park’s two beaches has been closed indefinitely, summer 2010 may be their last visit there.
Alleghany is one of several parks where swimming, the main attraction, will be prohibited. I imagine that far fewer people will frequent those parks this summer, causing the state to lose revenue generated from entrance fees. It’s not small change. New York State’s park system is one of the country’s busiest. Last summer, it hosted 56 million visitors, up 1.9 million from 2008.
To me, the closings violate our rights as citizens of this state. We pay taxes on the parks and we pay entrance fees. They were designed for the public to enjoy the outdoors and all nature has to offer – something that’s much more important to our psyches than many bottom-line folks are willing to understand. We don’t need less public access to lakes and other natural attractions, we need more!
I understand that the state’s financial situation and its impact on our parks is a complex issue, yet I can’t help thinking that if everyone involved in handling taxpayers’ money acted responsibly and honestly, we wouldn’t be in this mess right now. I hope that budgets can be balanced and fiscal stability can be achieved in the near future, for the sake of all New Yorkers.
Luckily, New York state parks are not our only option. Private campgrounds offer many unique attractions for visitors. Make sure to read about the variety of private campgrounds in our area by turning to page 71.
Another kind of camping, near and dear to my heart, is Boy Scout camp. I’ve been on several scout camping trips with my son, and I have found no other experience like it. The relationships you build and the camaraderie are fantastic. Mealtimes in the mess hall can be downright crazy. Walking from one activity to another can even be fun. If anyone has ever heard “hubba, hubba, ding ding,” you know what I’m talking about.
My good friend Tom wrote about his own Boy Scout camping experience in an article on page 18. I’m sure his memories will spark some of your own.
2010 marks the 100-year anniversary of Boy Scouts of America. It’s an organization that really has a positive influence. The Boy Scout Law is memorized by every scout. It covers every aspect of living positively – being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. It’s something we can all aspire to.
Stay positive and get out there and enjoy the Finger Lakes summer.
by Mark Stash