I am sorry that I did not post anything last week. Instead of blogging, I have been busy writing letters to my NY State legislators. It came to my attention last week that NY is closing or reducing services at somewhere between 40-64 state parks and 15 historic sites to solve part of our budget crisis. It's my understanding that this is happening all over the country, including Washington State and California. I find this incredibly upsetting- in fact, I'm pissed as hell about it!
I am not one to get politically active- sure, I have my own opinions and participate in elections but I never feel the urge to protest or write letters. Well, this issue has me pretty fired up. Gavin and I will be attending our first political protest on March 3rd to try and help save Thacher Park, one of the parks on the chopping block. Thacher is the park that I've written several posts about- it's an absolutely beautiful park that has been the setting for many of our weekend hikes this year.
From what I have been researching, closing these parks will save NY State about $6.3 million- our budget deficit is $8.3 BILLION. I understand that cuts need to be made in hard economic times but I think this is the worst place to be looking for money savings. I can bet you that even when the economy turns around, the budget is never going to be at such a surplus that the parks will be reopened. The amount of administrative bureaucracy is mind-boggling. You know the saying, how many people does it take to screw in a light-bulb? Well, how many politicians does it take to accomplish absolutely nothing? We pay over twice as much in tax dollars living in NY State as we did in Washington. Our property taxes alone, are double what we paid for our Seattle home. We now pay a state income tax. We also pay sales tax comparable to Seattle's. We pay tolls to take the thruways and turnpikes. What are they doing with this money? At the very least, we should be able to enjoy the park system and historical sites that the state has to offer. Otherwise, why would people choose to live here?
However, the biggest reason this fires me up is the message that it sends to communities. At at time when people are becoming increasingly out-of-shape and so narrowly focused on consumerism, our government leaders should be promoting park usage and quality lifestyles. We need to move our bodies and appreciate our natural environments. I understand that we need to stimulate the economy and job creation by giving business tax credits, etc. but at a certain point we have to learn that we can't just consume our way out of our problems. We have to start focusing on the quality of our lives and make decisions that will better the entire community. Sure, I'll continue to buy my kids toys and expose them to new technology, but I also want them to get excited about spending a few hours without all that crap. Even at age 2, the look on Gavin's face when he puts on his boots and knows we're heading out to the park is priceless.
I didn't mean for this to turn into a soap-box post. Believe it or not, I actually restrained myself. I could have gone on for several more paragraphs! I didn't even go into lost tourism revenues or increasing percentages of childhood obesity- I saved those arguments for my letter writing. If this is an issue that has you concerned- I encourage you to write to your own government legislators. This truly is not an issue for hippies or hard-core environmentalists. If you don't believe me, maybe you need to take a hike (literally!)