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State parks out of time as budget delay continues

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New York state is closing 41 parks and 14 historic sites because of the budget crisis. State parks officials said on Friday that they will begin locking parking lots and restrooms at 55 properties starting today. The closures come as the state faces a more than $9 billion budget deficit. The budget is now 47 days late. State officials say shutting down dozens of parks and historic sites will save about $12 million dollars. Chris Knight has more on North Country parks.

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Reported by

Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

Dozens of state parks are out of time. Beginning today, New York is shutting down or keeping closed dozens of parks and historic sites because of the budget crisis.

That means the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid, Point au Roche State Park in Beekmantown, and Macomb State Park in Schuyler Falls.

Eel Weir in St. Lawrence County is on the list, as are five in the Thousand Islands: Canoe, Cedar and Mary Island parks,  Keewaydin, near Alexandria Bay, though the marina there will open,  and the historic site at  Sackets Harbor. All will be closed for the season unless funding for the parks is included in the final state budget.

State Parks spokesman Dan Keefe said the 55 parks and historic sites that will be shut down or won't open for the season are the same ones Gov. David Paterson slated for closure or service reductions back in February. Although the Senate and Assembly have voted to restore $11.3 million in parks funding Paterson wanted to cut, lawmakers have yet to adopt a state budget. "So at this point we have no alternative but to go forward with the (closure) plan," Keefe said.

He said there is a chance some of the parks or historic sites could reopen for the season if state lawmakers adopt a budget that restores funding for them,

John Brown Farm, located just outside Lake Placid, is usually open for tours and other programs by May 1 but will remain closed for now, according to caretaker Brendan Mills. "We were holding out hope that the budget would be passed and we could open, but they had to go ahead with that," Mills said.

Most employees at the affected parks and historic sites are being transferred to facilities that will remain open, although Mills said he will continue to work at John Brown Farm and the site's grounds will remain open.

Mills admits he's frustrated that he can't do his job, "I want to give tours to their public," he said.  "I want to do my job to the fullest. We're just waiting for a budget."

The state budget, due April 1, is more than six weeks late.

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