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Ash 'hopeful' for state parks slated to close

BUFFALO -- State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash said today she is "extraordinarily grateful" for support that has poured out for 41 state parks slated to be closed, but said the future of the facilities is still unclear. 

Ash, speaking to reporters in Buffalo this morning, said she is hopeful that state legislators have made state parks and historic sites a top issue to resolve as they cobble together the state budget in the coming weeks.

"I'm extraordinarily grateful to the people, to the park goers, for saying that, 'We want this to be your number one issue,' " Ash said. 

"But," she warned, the budget process is "never over 'til it's over."

"I think one of the things that has changed, which is enormously gratifying to myself and I think to my colleagues in the parks business all over the state, is the outpouring of anxiety and desire and letters and Facebooks that have started up all over the state saying to our legislators, 'Keep our parks open,' " Ash said after making an announcement about the Empire State Games this morning.

Ash and Gov. David A. Paterson last month announced a plan to close 41 state parks and 14 historic sites April 1 to address a state budget gap.

What that will mean, Ash said today, is that grass could go uncut, snow would go unplowed, bathrooms would close and steps would be taken to ensure people don't injure themselves in dangerous areas of closed parks.

State parks in Western New York on the closure list include Woodlawn Beach, Knox Farm, Joseph Davis, Wilson-Tuscarora, Long Point and Oak Orchard.

"Each park is completely different," Ash said. "And if we do not get restored, we will be working with our regional directors and site managers to determine how that will happen in each individual park."

-- Denise Jewell Gee

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