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The Times
  • Herkimer Home on state chopping block

  • Similar to a revolutionary call to arms, local officials and state parks’ advocates are organizing residents to help fight the possible closure of state parks and historic sites.

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  • Similar to a revolutionary call to arms, local officials and state parks’ advocates are organizing residents to help fight the possible closure of state parks and historic sites.
    The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation released its plan Friday that would close 41 parks and 14 historic sites as part of proposed cuts for the 2010-11 state budget.
    Service reductions are planned for another 27 parks and one historic site.
    And two iconic reminders of the Mohawk Valley’s role in the American Revolution are among the historic sites in danger of losing funding.
    The Herkimer Home Historic Site in the town of Danube and the Oriskany Battlefield in Oneida County are slated for closure if the state legislature approves the governor’s budget.
    The deadline for the budget vote is April 1.
    But opponents are taking immediate action to pressure lawmakers.
    “We’re trying to rally the troops,” said Robin Dropkin, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy organization Parks and Trails New York. “And it’s not that hard to do; people feel very passionate about their parks.”
    Alan Vincent, a Little Falls native and Parks and Trails board member, said it saddened him to think of Herkimer Home closing.
    “I think that Herkimer Home, it’s really engraved in the heritage of Herkimer County,” said Vincent, who is also a commissioner of the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor. “It would be a shame to cut that off from people.”
    Generations need to learn about the actions of Gen. Nicholas Herkimer, who lived at the Herkimer Home site and fought in the battle at Oriskany, being mortally wounded, Vincent said.
    “I think we would still be talking about our sovereign the queen if that didn’t happen,” he said.
    In an attempt to sway lawmakers, Trails and Parks officials are organizing a “save our state parks day,” Dropkin said. The day will involve a rally in Albany on March 3 and push for other residents to “flood their legislators’ inboxes” and call representatives to send the message of opposition to cuts and closures, she added.
    Local representatives seem aware of the emotion involved in closing parks and ties to regional history.
    “The proposed closures of Johnson Hall State Historic Site, Glimmerglass State Park, Herkimer Home Historic Site and the Hyde Hall State Historic Site would be a devastating loss to the Mohawk Valley,” Assemblyman Marc Butler, R - Newport, said in a released statement. “These facilities also serve as a source of local pride as our area is rich in history.”
    Butler feels the closures provide “short-term” savings while causing “irreparable damage.” The parks and sites provide an economic boost from tourism as well as inexpensive recreation for residents, he said, and both are important tools during this time of fiscal crisis.
    Page 2 of 2 - Vincent agreed the positives outweigh any negatives.
    “One of the major reasons that people come here are for the attractions,” he said. “[Herkimer Home] is a very rare resource. There aren’t too many places like this around.”
    Senator James Seward, R - Oneonta, said he is aware of the benefits, but he also warned of the realities of the budget deficit, which state officials have placed as high as $8 billion.
    “In tough economic times we need to look at all available cost-cutting measures to ensure a balanced state budget. That being said, our state parks are on the chopping block because of last year’s bad state budget that produced this year’s deficit,” Seward stated in an e-mail.
    “We have to evaluate very carefully the governor’s plan and analyze whether the tourist benefits outweigh the cost of maintaining them,” he added, proposing volunteer staffing and other cost reductions to keep parks open. “I expect this discussion to continue in the coming weeks as we work toward a final state budget.”
    Dropkin, however, thinks any potential savings are not enough to even consider closing parks.
    “The miniscule savings from closing 57 parks — four thousandths of one percent of the total state budget — is laughable and pales in comparison to the hardship parks closings will cause New Yorkers, both in spirit and in pocket,” she said.
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