By Kelley Granger
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know that New York is in some pretty f-in’ big trouble (the “f” standing for fiscal, of course). The state’s facing a gap in budget bigger than the one between Madonna’s teeth. Unfortunately, just as we’re heading into prime hiking, kayaking and picnicking season, you may find your favorite parks, historic sites and recreational areas are on the budget chopping block. Dozens have been slated for reduced hours of operation or worse yet, complete closure. The governor’s plan has been called a lot of things, “shortsighted” being the least of them. After all, these areas generate tourism and help support the mom-and-pop shops and cafes that we all love to frequent during a well-rounded day trip. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite (and newly endangered) state sites. Help support these locations by planning a visit, or better yet, writing or calling the state legislators to let him know how you really feel about these proposals.
View of Minnewaska courtesy of lakeminnewaska.org
Minnewaska State Park Preserve
New Paltz’s Whitecliff Winery sells bottles of Awosting White, a tasty blend of Seyval Blanc and Vignoles grapes that’s a tribute to one of nearby Minnewaska State Park Preserve’s star attractions – Awosting Falls, a 60-foot waterfall that plunges over a scenic rock shelf and is accessible to most visitors via a relatively easy trail. But the waterfall just scratches the surface of the natural wonders of the park. At 2,000 feet above sea level, the park is at home on one of the Northeast’s most scenic mountain ridges. It’s also home to Lake Awosting and Lake Minnewaska, dazzling bodies of water surrounded by striking rock formations which provide an opportunity for a refreshing dip (and a small beach to sunbathe on) and a quiet canoe or kayak. More adrenaline-oriented visitors will find no shortage of hiking, biking and amazing rock climbing, those looking to relax can bring their dogs and stroll the picturesque path encircling the main lake. This park has been designated for complete closure, so help save it by contacting state legislators. For their information and to keep up-to-date on the park’s status, join more than 20,000 fans on the Facebook page Save Minnewaska or visit http://www.saveminnewaska.org.
Walkway Over the Hudson image credit to Fred Schaeffer via thedailygreen.com
Walkway Over the Hudson
With its grand opening in very recent history (October 3, 2009, to be exact) it’s incredible that this park drew almost half a million visitors in just its first three months open to the public. The walkway spans the width of the Hudson River between Poughkeepsie and Highland on an old railway bridge, originally built in 1888 and considered an engineering marvel at the time. Almost $40 million was spent to meticulously rework the original structure into a pedestrian park that rises 212 feet over the Hudson River and runs more than a mile in length, making it the world’s largest pedestrian bridge. Visitors can walk, run, bike or rollerblade across the walkway to take in the stunning views over the middle of the river. Right now the walkway is in danger of total closure for part of the year and may also be closed during the rest of the season for parts of the week. Help keep this memorable day-trip a spring and summer travel options all week by showing your support: Join the Facebook fan group Keep Walkway State Park Open (http://www.facebook.com/keepwalkwayopen), which lists appropriate legislators to contact to express your concern.
Cold Spring Harbor State Park
One of Long Island’s best spots for spring and fall songbird spotting will be singing the blues if the proposal is passed – its 40 acres will be totally closed to the public. A great spot for a relaxing nature walk with close proximity to the village of Cold Spring Harbor, the park is an affordable option with no visiting fees. A local outfitter, Long Island Kayak Club, does group tours (non-member tours run $60 for the tour and equipment) that include dates in the waters of Cold Spring Harbor State Park.
Providing more than 20,000 jobs and almost $2 billion in revenue, parks are also affordable options for fun getaways and day trips in tough economic times. In fact, according to the Political Economy Research Institute, the parks bring in $5 of benefits for every $1 spent on them. The website http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/SaveNYSParks offers the opportunity to sign a quick and painless petition to keep these treasures and more open.