Thursday, March 06, 2008

State Cuts for Park Funding

The Star Ledger reported this morning that the proposed state budget cuts include a 20% cut in funding for parks and forests.

Some New Jersey parks and historic sites may shut down if Gov. Jon Corzine's proposed budget cuts at the state Department of Environmental Protection are formalized. At the very least, authorities said, camping, swimming and other fun will stop at some parks.

"While there are cuts in general areas, the proposed cut to the park and forestry areas is 20 percent," DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson said yesterday. "We can't absorb a cut of that size and not cut some services."

Jackson called park and historic site closures a "drastic" action. While it cannot be ruled out, she said, the DEP will look first toward slashing activities that she called "people-intense." That means anything like swimming, camping and historic tours that require guides, lifeguards, policing and overall management by staff.
As several conservationists point out, parks and other recreation areas are money-makers for the state. Permits and other fees bring in cash directly. Ecotourism generates tolls and sales taxes. If parks and historic sites are closed, those sources of revenue will disappear. Besides that, funding for natural areas has been cut consistently for the past two decades. Continued cuts will threaten any habitat management or species monitoring programs administered by the DEP.

Unfortunately the same can be said for almost any other state program, from infrastructure maintenance to higher education. New Jersey has been in the grip of insane fiscal ideology for at least two decades, and it does not appear to be ending anytime soon.