The state budget passed last week had some good news for state parks. Our Nick Reisman has the details on how much money will be going to the parks and how it'll help.
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NEW YORK STATE -- Governor Andrew Cuomo's $15 billion New York Works Program at first glance has a broad mandate.
“We have a truly ambitious job development program, economic development program, in New York Works that is combining two things: It's going to be creating jobs and it's going to be rebuilding New York's roads and bridges, which we needed to be doing anyway,” said Governor Cuomo.
A main funder of the state's 213 parks, the Environmental Protection Fund, isn't receiving a boost in funding. But the New York Works program, created as part of the newly minted $132.6 billion spending plan, has advocates for New York's aging park system cheering. The proposal includes $89 million for needed infrastructure repairs and upgrades for the 213 state parks facilities.
“They have not had the money to do the kind of quality maintenance projects that they wanted to do. So they'll really have to address it. It means they'll have to dig into a lot of big projects,” said Erik Kulleseid, Alliance for New York State Parks Director.
But the projects are expected to be modest in scope, at least as far as the public would be concerned. The goal is to address long-term and repeating problems that have gone unaddressed for decades.
“They're not necessarily the ones, they're not sexy projects. It's like power systems, sewer systems, water systems. It's all these things that have not been maintained well enough in the last 40 years and they really need this kind of an investment,” Kulleseid said.
And that $89 million will only take on the most needed projects. The Alliance for State Parks estimates there's a backlog of projects with designs sitting on the shelf totaling more than a billion dollars in cost.
Kulleseid said, “This is going to allow some of the ones that are most urgent to get done.”
Still, parks and the Environmental Protection Fund haven't fared too well in recent budgets. In 2010, then-Governor David Paterson and the Legislature wrestled over $11 million in funding to keep more than 40 parks open. They reached a deal just before Memorial Day weekend.