Closing Parks Could Cost State Millions: Feds

Federal officials have warned Gov. David Paterson's administration that New York could lose millions of dollars in funding if it goes forward with plans to close dozens of state parks and historic sites.

The National Parks Service warned Paterson in a letter that closing any state parks that receive federal funding could jeopardize the state's eligibility to receive future money from the agency. The agency also warned that it could request all federal funds be withheld, including money for education and transportation.

In an open letter Friday, the governor said he would ask the commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to meet with National Parks Service officials to make certain that any spending reductions don't jeopardize the state's eligibility for funding.

"In an environment when we have to cut funding to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and social services, I trust that the National Park Service understands that no area of State spending, including parks and historic sites, could be exempt from reductions," the letter said.

In a letter dated March 31, the agency's regional director for the northeast region, Dennis R. Reidenbach, wrote to the governor, saying that because most of the state parks and sites had received money under the Land and Water Conservation Fund or the Federal Lands to Parks Program, closing them would be a violation of rules.

"The public has no less need for recreation opportunities and access to open space in times of economic hardship," Reidenbach wrote in the letter.

The letter was posted on the Facebook page of U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, an upstate congressman, earlier this week.

The Paterson administration plans to close 41 parks and 14 historic sites because of a projected $9 billion deficit.

The National Parks Service has offered to help Paterson's staff find ways to avoid shutting the parks while still dealing with funding shortfalls.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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