In the week since Thacher Park has been officially closed, local politicians and park advocates have been sounding off about the closure. Assemblyman John McEneny, D-Albany, and John Kilroy, president of Friends of Thacher Park both say the park is being used as a bargaining chip in the budget battle.
We are kind of as dumbfounded as the rest of the state that the governor went through with it, said Kilroy. "The ball is in the governor's court. The governor seems to be using the people of the state as a bargaining chip with the legislature."
McEneny agreed with Kilroy's assessment.
"I think the people who patronize and need parks are being used as pawns in a budget battle, and I don't think it's right," he said.
The closure of 41 state parks and 14 historical sites was first put on the table in February when the governor's proposed budget included a $20 million cut in the amount of funding the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Perseveration in the 2011-11 fiscal year.
Both houses of the legislature included a full restoration of funding for the parks in their versions of the proposed budget, however, the assembly, senate, and governor have yet to come up with a final version of the budget.
Since the budget deadline of Wednesday, March 31, the state has been operating on short-term emergency appropriations that provide for the bare-bones operation of state government until a permanent budget is passed.
Eileen Larrabee, communications director for the Office of Parks, Recreation, Historic Preservation, said that since the deadline, Thacher Park has been operating on a week to week basis, and with the onset of warmer weather, the staff could no longer sustain operations to meet the needs of the park.
"This is about the economic realities this agency, like other agencies, are dealing with," said Larrabee.