FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 23, 2010
SCHUMER: FEDERAL PROGRAM COULD UNDO CUTS AND PREVENT CLOSURES OF WESTERN NEW YORK'S STATE PARKS - PARKS ARE MAJOR DRIVER OF REGION'S TOURISM ECONOMY
Schumer Pushes for Full Funding of Land and Water Conservation Fund in Energy Bill - LWCF Sends Funds To States To Develop and Maintain Parks
Over a Dozen State Parks and Campsites in the Region Were on Slated to Be Closed- New Push Could Help Keep Parks Open and Help Prevent Closures and Cutbacks Due to State Budget Cuts Next Year
Fund is Fully Paid For By Royalties From Gas and Oil Drilling On Federal Land
Today, US Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that the Senate energy bill could provide the funding necessary to reverse cuts to state parks and reduce the risk that they would have to be closed in the future. It could also allow the New York State Parks Department to make critical upgrades and improvements to our state’s parks. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is funded through offshore oil and gas drilling royalties, has historically been authorized at $900 million per year to help develop and maintain outdoor recreation facilities but Congress has only appropriated the full allotment twice in the last 40 years. The new bill, which could be voted on as early as September, contains the full allotment, which could provide almost unprecedented resources to the state.
Standing at Canal Park in Holley, Schumer made the case that state and municipal parks make an enormous contribution to communities and New York’s tourism economy, and should not fall victim to state budget difficulties, especially considering this year’s record attendance.
“These dollars, already being collected by oil and gas drilling companies, have hardly been used for their intended purpose and should be spent on parks and outdoor recreation as Congress intended.” said Schumer. “In the last year we have seen park closures and programs New Yorkers have come to expect eliminated because of squeezed state budgets. By providing the state more funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, state parks in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region and Western New York will have greater flexibility to restore cuts to popular parks and make long overdue improvements that will ensure our state’s parks are national treasures for years to come.”
Every year, visitors from all over the county come to state parks and historic sites throughout the Rochester-Finger Lakes region and Western New York, pumping millions of dollars in local economies. Over a dozen parks with 6 gorges and waterfalls span the region, playing host to families and tourists who spend their time and money in the area. New York truly has some of the world’s greatest natural attractions, including Letchworth State Park, known as the ‘Grand Canyon’ of the east. This site, and others, could be on the chopping block next year unless extra help is provided.
For over 40 years, the LWCF has used revenue collected from offshore oil and gas development to purchase lands from willing sellers for the purposes of conservation and to provide grants to states for recreation planning, acquisition of lands and waters, and facility development. It is authorized at a spending level of $900 million per year. However, Congress has fully funded the program only twice since its inception and rarely has the fund come close to matching the full amount authorized. Appropriations over the years have varied wildly and have been a mere fraction of the total amount authorized. The result is a program that moves forward in fits and starts, to the detriment of our parks systems.
All across New York this year, access to state parks was in jeopardy as the State tried to fill its budget gap. Some parks in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region and Western New York were slated to close this year due to budget constraints- a move that would have halted the thousands of visitors who come each year. Below is a list of state parks in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region and Western New York that temporarily closed, faced closure or service cut-backs in the last year. In Orleans, Oak Orchard State Marine Park was set to be closed, before the County stepped in to continue the operation.
Finger Lakes Region
- Beechwood State Park (Wayne)--Close Park
- Bonavista State Park (Seneca)--Close Park
- Chimney Bluffs State Park (Wayne)--Close Park
- Newtown Battlefield State Park (Chemung)--Close Park
- Springbrook Greens State Park (Cayuga)--Close Park
- Two Rivers State Park (Tioga)--Close Park
- Buttermilk Falls State Park (Tompkins)--Close Public Swimming Area
- Seneca Lake State Park (Seneca)--Close Lake Swimming Beach
- Stony Brook State Park (Steuben)--Close Public Swimming Area
- Hamlin Beach State Park (Monroe)--Close Swimming Beach 3 Days per Week
- Oak Orchard State Marine Park (Orleans)--Close Park
- Regionwide Multiple Eliminate Camper Recreation Program
- Joseph Davis State Park (Niagara)--Close Park
- Knox Farm State Park (Erie)--Close Park
- Wilson-Tuscarora State Park (Niagara)--Close Park
- Woodlawn Beach State Park (Erie)-- Close Park
At its high point in 1979, New York State received roughly $24 million from the LWCF, which was used to provide grants to municipalities to undertake State Park development and land acquisition projects. Since 1965, the LWCF has partially funded 1,250 projects within the state. Virtually every community in New York has acquired and/or developed outdoor recreational facilities with the help of the LWCF.
Over the past year, due to severe state budget shortfalls, New York State Parks has had to close recreational areas and cut back operations throughout the state. Funding from LWCF to New York State Parks for outdoor recreation projects could relieve pressure on its strained budget allowing the state to focus its resources on keeping parks open and operating at their full capacity.