41 parks closing in New York


Original photo by John Stoneman. 

And unbelievably, yesterday, the very same day the governor
closed them
, he attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new section of Hudson
River Park in Manhattan that had apparently long been scheduled. “It pains me,”
he commented.

It may pain him (I doubt it), but it will cause much more
pain among the people who actually use these parks across the parts of New York
State that our largely downstate-based government doesn’t care about. Not to
mention the lost revenue: most of these parks have entry or rental fees for
family reunions, camping, boat launching, and so on. I know this because we used
to use one of them, Joseph Davis Park, regularly for that purpose. Other parks
to be closed in Western New York include Woodlawn Beach, on Lake Erie, and Wilson-Tuscarora,
a great place for bird-spotting and wildflower walks. Another shocking closure
is the magnificent Chimney Bluffs (shown above, a bit more northeast of us). Thankfully,
they are leaving Niagara Falls open, for now.

Parks and politicians don’t really mix. It’s similar to the
problem we have getting city officials to recognize the importance of urban
gardening. The rooms may not be filled with smoke any more, but it’s still all
about rooms, buildings, and power-broking.

The best-case scenario is that the parks will reopen when
the state gets a budget (they are over a month past the deadline for setting one).
Also, several local municipalities will be keeping the parks that are within
their boundaries open on their own dime. The fact is that the state could have found
a way to keep these parks open. 
Though NY (like many other states) is in big fiscal trouble, these
closures seem mainly like a high-profile way for the current administration to
lash out at an electorate that is rejecting it. 

Fortunately, we do have a lot of other parks.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. The one local park in my part of the world run by the federal government, the Saratoga Battlefield, is magnificent. Strike up a chat with a ranger, and you will find yourself deep in conversation with a historian.

    The New York State parks and historic sites in this part of the world, are a joke. The docents know nothing–I’m sure patronage rules here–stuff is badly maintained and the recreational spots are so rule-bound as to be unusable.

    In Vermont, you can actually SWIM in a public lake. In New York, you are confined by ropes and jerks with whistles to a fish-tank sized bit of water.

    I think the state needs to get out of this business and leave it to a private group, like Massachusetts’ amazing Trustees of Reservations.

  2. Well–the state parks near me contain some of the most magnificent scenery east of the Rockies, and I just need them to be open–I don’t care about docents. Though, that being said, our state program has a really good schedule of activities and walks. As for privatization, NY has over 200. Too many. I would rather have a mix of ownership and better for govt to step up and provide the service.

  3. When I was Curator of Landscape at Fort Ticonderoga, visitors always asked me “why isn’t this a national park?” or “why isn’t this a state park?”

    Well, the short answer is because the Federal government left the Fort to fall down, and then sold it to a family. That’s why.

    But, now that they have managed to get rid of the director who was trying to sell off the collection, and a money-grubbing-bottom-feeding donor, they’re doing well, financially, and I’m SO GLAD they aren’t a state or federal property.

    Because if they were, Fort Ticonderoga would probably be closed now, too.

  4. Word of what is happening to state parks is reaching far and wide. I`ve just returned from the Healthy Parks, Healthy People International Congress in Melbourne, Australia. The closures in New York and Arizona were mentionned several times. Perhaps a bit of international embarrassment will move things along.

  5. Eliz, that just sucks. In Oklahoma, we passed a bond issue and are investing in our much loved and also abused park system. I just don’t get why they closed them in New York. I better get to Niagara Falls quickly.~~Dee

  6. Would you vote for a tax increase to pay for your state/federal park? All government is broke, from the locals to the feds. Even parks owned by nonprofits are hurting because investment earnings are down. You could have quite a large endowment, but when the interest rate goes from 5% to less than 1%, your operating money is cut.

  7. Ha. They closed Red Rocks, in Sedona, Arizona. I don’t know how that one wasn’t a money-maker for the state.

    This economy makes for some pretty crazy decision making.

  8. Why are they closed? This is one reason: http://www.wktv.com/news/local/93898414.html
    Only, it isn’t just Utica, it’s almost the entire state. Businesses are being taxed out of the state, so who’s left to pick up the slack? (This says it all: Utica’s job growth is -0.2%). No businesses paying taxes, no people with jobs paying taxes = NY is in debt up to its ears. Period. Honestly, the parks being closed is one of the lesser worries for people in this state right now. Ask the hundreds of teachers who will be losing their jobs after today’s school budget votes.

  9. Parks produce revenue and provide quality of life. You do not disinvest in that which makes your state attractive and livable in order to save it.

    Our problem is with incompetent govt, and people who expect everything but want to pay for nothing.

  10. It’s terrible that we have to lose the ability to see and enjoy the better parts of our natural resources. At the rate we are going there won’t be much left to enjoy.

  11. In New York we have a complete IDIOT for a governor. We also have a MORON named Sheldon Silver who along with this IDIOTIC excuse for a governor are holding up the jobs, education and 18 million others in this state……

    The TROLL

  12. Your anger at the governor is misplaced. Your anger should be with our completely ineffectual legislature who work three-days a week and get paid more than most people do for that amount of time. If they were truly interested in keeping parks open, or doing their job, they would actually go to work like the rest of us, and act like adults, like the rest of us. I do not understand the anger being leveled at Patterson. I think he’s doing a pretty good job for the cocked-up situation he has inherited and the absolute children he has to work with.

  13. I wouldn’t be as harsh as Greg, by any means, nor would I let off the assembly or senate, but here are the words most commonly heard describing the park closings:
    That’s not responsible governing.

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