Enjoying pristine winter landscapes in state parks may be more difficult this winter as budget cutbacks extend even to the great outdoors.
State parks have been making plans to shave $400,000 off their budgets this year, which means reduced snowplowing, limited maintenance of ski trails and layoffs of seasonal workers.
"We were given a number to meet," said Arlene Post, spokeswoman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which oversees the regional offices. "It will mean a curtailment of events and cutbacks of activities."
The $400,000 was divided among regions according to their programming and spending needs, and regional directors were assigned specific amounts by which to reduce spending. Reductions must be met by March 31, the end of the fiscal year.
As part of the reduction, 22 seasonal workers were laid off Wednesday in the Niagara region, which encompasses 13 parks in Erie and Niagara counties.
Regional Director Mario J. Pirastru has been told to cut $59,500 from his budget.
In addition to laying off the seasonal employees, officials said, plowing snow and salting park roads will be reduced.
Other cost-saving measures in the Niagara region include closing some restrooms that normally are winterized, canceling some winter activities and limiting trail grooming.
Assistant Director Henry Bradowski said some park roads normally kept open throughout the year will be closed.
In the Allegany region, which has three parks, including Allegany State Park, cross-country ski and snowmobile trails will be maintained only on weekends.
Six seasonal employees will be laid off early, as part of an effort to save $44,500. An extra 12 to 13 miles of park roads will be closed this winter.
"We've suspended all of our winter operations -- cross-country skiing, tubing, snowmobiling, ice skating, environmental programs," said Edward J. Conley, director of the Genesee region. Letchworth is among the four parks in the two-county region.
Conley was told to reduce his budget by $17,200. Darien Lake State Park will be closed for the winter, and the employee workweek has been reduced from five days to four.
"We've gone through these shortfalls before, but never to the point where we've had to eliminate activities," he said.
Rather than firing seasonal workers early, the Genesee region reduced the workweek of employees from five days to four to minimize the impact on maintenance projects, Conley said.