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STATE IS DEDICATED TO IMPROVING PARKS

Andrew Galarneau's recent article "Park for Profit" is one-sided and erroneous. How unfortunate that this paper would take a cheap shot at the state and run a series of articles that criticize some of the very problems we at State Parks identified and discussed with The Buffalo News editorial board over a month ago, at which this reporter was present.

The reporter's misunderstanding of the financial reports cannot be an excuse for presenting the wrong picture to readers.

The most glaring of his distortions -- eight cents returned for improvements at the Niagara Reservation for every dollar taken in -- is blatantly misleading. In fact, the cost to operate, maintain and improve Niagara Reservation State Park exceeds the total revenues collected at the park.

The reporter fails to tell the readers that public-private partnerships supplement -- they do not supplant -- the amount of public funds that State Parks uses to improve and manage our park system.

Our intent has never been for our private partners to "bail us out," as the heading suggested. We have been working with private partners to help improve our parks at no additional cost to the state. These partnerships benefit many parks, park patrons and taxpayers.

The article also suggests that the federal government should take over the Niagara Reservation. Anyone who supports this idea should be reminded that the National Parks Service, according to the General Accounting Office, is currently experiencing a maintenance backlog of approximately $6 billion.

Also, they should know that since 1995, the federal government has all but ignored the state side of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which should be bringing in tens of millions of dollars annually for state and municipal park projects in New York State alone.

I have lived in Western New York most of my life and I consider it my home. This area has never received more attention or more enthusiasm from Albany than it is enjoying at the present time. Readers deserve the whole picture of our new vision for, and commitment to, the Niagara Reservation. Unfortunately, that article has yet to be written.

EDWARD J. RUTKOWSKI

Assistant Deputy Commissioner
New York State Office
of Parks, Recreation and
Historic Preservation

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