In what is expected to be the warmest weekend of the year as of yet, park-goers may want to take into account that bathroom facilities will not be available before heading to Thacher Park.
On Thursday, April 1, Anni Murray, one of the organizers of the grassroots movement to keep the park opened informed The Spotlight that staff at the park have locked the bathroom facilities.
Eileen Larrabee, director of communications for the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation confirmed that the bathroom facilities have been closed as a cost saving measure in light of the budget crisis.
Today we start a new fiscal year and we do not have funding to continue the operation of facilities the way we have been, said Larrabee. `State Parks, like every other agency, is reducing operating costs.`
She said in addition to providing restrooms, a number of the departments operations will be cut back on due to the budget cuts, including grass mowing, and the maintenance of trails and pavilions.
`It seems to me to be jumping the gun,` said Assemblyman John McEneny D-Albany. He referred to the move as `heavy handed` and likened it to previous reports of parks’ canceling camping reservations based on the governor’s budget, as opposed to the enacted budget, which has yet to be voted on.
`It’s really putting pressure on the local public, and the local taxpayer,` said McEneny. `Canceling reservations in parks before they have a budget, that’s heavy handed. Closing bathrooms is heavy handed.`
McEneny also noted that both the Senate and Assembly versions of the budget include full restorations of funding to the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation.
Although both the Assembly and Senate versions of the budget including funding for parks, Larrabee said that as of now decision are made based on the executive budget.
`We have no budget in place that keeps the park open,` said Larrabee. `We understand people are going to be disappointed but we have to accept the economic reality.`
McEneny said he believes the decision to close the parks did not come from the Parks Department, but instead from the governor. `I don’t blame it on parks [department]. I think this is coming from the governor. The old adage is ‘this is coming from the second floor.`
McEneny said the governor is trying to exert pressure on the legislature to make cuts or raise taxes. `I think this kind of pressure is counterproductive,` he said.