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Chittenango Falls, McNitt parks face closure

Facing budget cuts, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Preservation released a recommended list of closures on Friday Feb. 19. Two Madison County parks -- Helen McNitt State Park in Cazenovia and Chittenango Falls State Park -- were included.

"These actions were not recommended lightly, but they are necessary to address our State's extraordinary fiscal difficulties," OPRHP Commissioner Carol Ash said.

The plan includes the closure of 41 parks and 14 historic sites.

Local and state officials quickly spoke out against the proposal.

"In addition to providing Central New York families with affordable, safe recreational opportunities, our state parks and historical sites are also economic development engines in our communities. Complete closure of these facilities will accomplish little in savings and will serve to further stagnate the Upstate economy," State Sen. David Valesky said. "I believe we should look at cost-savings measures and creative solutions, such as public-private partnerships, before considering closure of the sites. It is through these efforts that we can pass a fiscally responsible State Budget that holds the line on taxes, creates jobs, and eliminates waste, while maintaining our valuable state parks that are used by millions of visitors each year."

Amy Mann, a village of Cazenovia trustee, Commissioner of Parks and Recreation and member of the Lake Watershed Council, also spoke out against the proposed closures.

"Parks provide inexpensive and healthy opportunities for people to enjoy our abundant natural resources, and in this economy, park usage has dramatically increased," Mann said. "I am hopeful that other avenues will be explored to cut costs, and that this will not happen."

Madison County Tourism, Inc. released a statement on their blog, madisontourismblog.com.

"Of course there is a long way to go before the state parks are officially closed, and the legislature has to approve the closings, but as of today you better get your last pictures of the falls before they are closed forever," read the statement. "You can rest assured that we here at Madison County Tourism will be pulling out all of the stops to try and stop the shut down of this regional icon, but with the state budget for 2010 it is a crap shoot as to how successful we will be."

The statement encourages concerned citizens to contact their state representatives.

"Tell them a personal story about your time at a state park and how important the parks are to our quality of life and economic future in Upstate New York."

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