Written by James Rappaport
posted on March 12, 2010 22:28
The news in the last few years coming from Albany would bring a challenge to even the greatest of optimists. One look at the news on February 19th from New York’s capital would probably tip many people in our region into outrage. While the upstate region has been subjected to numerous challenges in the latter half of the 20th century, the latest news for our region has large ramifications.
The fiscal situation surrounding New York State is well documented. Large budget deficits (projected this year to be well over 8 billion dollars), coupled with decreasing tax revenues (approximately 20 percent of Albany’s tax revenue comes from Wall Street alone) and increased “legacy costs” have forced Governor Patterson and his staff into cost cutting measures that will affect many facets in the Thousand Islands region.
In 2009, New York’s fiscal crisis forced the state to reduce services at 100 of the 178 state parks and 35 of the designated historic sites. As part of the current 2010 fiscal year (in addition to school cutbacks, proposed prison closures, and municipal aid cuts), the governor’s staff recently announced a proposal to close several statewide parks, including regional ones.
Included in the closure list for the Thousand Islands and Sackets Harbor area:
- Canoe Island State Park
- Cedar Island State Park
- Keewaydin State Park (see below)
- Mary Island State Park
- Sackets Harbor State Historic Site
While the response to the proposals have been swift, there is a very sobering reality that comes with the cutbacks. As many are keenly aware, the area’s economy is tourist driven. A park’s closure has a compounding impact outside of the single variable of fees that are generated. The visiting community means dollars spent, sales taxes, and supporting the local businesses that employ local residents. One needs to look into the Thousand Islands local economy during the winter season to get a glimpse of when the tourists are largely in other areas.
In an area that derives a large source of revenue from the tourist industry, the proposed closures left many to wonder why in an economic climate such as this, campgrounds and tourist sites would be subjected to the budget axe. Numerous tourists who visit the area utilize the state parks to provide an economical vacation for themselves and their families. Often these same campers appreciate the region and over time purchase islands or mainland property. While cost savings need to be addressed across New York, it seems most punishing to those that can least afford it.
The news of the closures has brought forth alternative solutions to keep the parks active through the summer months. One proposal includes downloading park operations to the municipalities. Other ideas include increasing fees and/or implementing a seasonal sales tax that would be administered in the region to pay for the park operations. In any scenario, the key is keeping the options for tourists open, and not discouraging them from visiting.
We hope the Governor's staff in Albany understands the ramifications of cutting back on a key component of this region's tourist industry. Unfortunately... this may not happen...
By James Rappaport, Indian Point
See: Parks & Trails New York, which is a statewide advocacy organization which works to expand, protect and promote a
network of parks, trails and open spaces throughout New York State. Also The Political Economy Research Institute has published The NYS Park System: An Economic Asset to the Empire State.
See online petition regarding Keewaydin State Park. has been created.
Facebook: Keep New York State Parks Open
James Rappaport is a strategic management consultant for publishing, radio, and cable television ventures as well as contributing writer for several media outlets. He is a summer resident of Indian Point in the Town of Hammond and lives in Connecticut in the winter.
James has written several pieces for Thousand Islands Life about current affairs. He promises to keep our readers informed about the State Park closures. He suggests you contact you elected representatives in Albany as well as your local representatives if you have suggestions or concerns.