New facilities - and fees, closures - at LI parks

The state's budget crisis will close all of

The state's budget crisis will close all of Brookhaven and most of Nissequogue River state parks because no one has come to their rescue. (Aug. 2, 2009) (Credit: Bill Davis)

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Map: Changes to state parks, beaches and golf courses

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Robert Moses State Park

A nasty winter with three severe nor'easters hit the park hard: The beaches at Fields 4 and 5 virtually disappeared.

The beach at Field 5 has been restored along with half of Field 4, said Ronald Foley, regional director of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

The agency hired a contractor to place 200,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach. The project cost just under $1 million and is being paid for with Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements for past damage.

When the work wraps up by next weekend, Foley said, the sand will extend the depth of the beach out about 200 feet out from the dunes from the eastern end of Field 5 west almost to the Field 4 concession building, a distance of about a mile.

That will make the entire Field 5 beach usable by visitors. Foley said Field 4 still needs more sand and grading but that might be done by next weekend.

Jones Beach State Park

July Fourth fireworks are canceled because of a shortage of park police officers due to budget cuts.

The status of the pitch-and-putt golf course at Jones Beach is still up in the air. The grass on greens that were swamped three times by nor'easters over the winter has died. State officials are talking about opening nine of the 18 holes for the summer.

Zachs Bay swimming area at Jones Beach is to remain open through Labor Day instead of closing Aug. 16, thanks to a Citibank grant.

Caleb Smith State Park

Was on state-closure list, but remains open Wednesday through Sunday with corporate and nonprofit group donations.

Connetquot River State Park Preserve

Was on state closure list, but remains open seven days a week with a donation from a fishing group.

Orient Beach State Park

Was on state closure list, but remains open with donations from a fishing group and corporations.

Cold Spring Harbor State Park

Was on state closure list, but remains open because a mountain biking group has agreed to maintain it.

Trail View State Park.

Was on state closure list, but remains open because a mountain biking group has agreed to maintain it.

Nissequogue River State Park

Closed - except for the two marinas and canoe and kayak launching area. But public will not be prohibited from entering the grounds.

Brookhaven State Park

Closed.

Heckscher State Park

Pool will not open unless the State Legislature restores funding.

Montauk Downs State Park

Pool will not open unless the legislature restores funding.

Montauk Point State Park

A $1.1-million comfort station is nearing completion at the main parking lot.

Sunken Meadow State Park

A new playground was built over the winter near the beach at Sunken Meadow State Park to replace an older and smaller facility.

Hempstead Lake State Park

Carousel open beyond weekend hours thanks to a Citibank grant.

Patchogue

Fire Island National Seashore has opened a $4.6-million ferry terminal.

Bethpage

At Old Bethpage Village Restoration, Nassau County has established a new dog run near the entrance.


At several state parks.

With New York in a financial funk, an array of higher park fees have been instituted by the state.

Beach fees have increased $2 to $8 per vehicle and to $10 when lifeguards are on duty.

At "flagship" parks - such as Bayard Cutting Arboretum, Belmont Lake, Bethpage, Captree, Caumsett, Connetquot, Hempstead Lake, Montauk Point, Planting Fields Arboretum and Valley Stream - entrance fees have jumped from $6 or $7 per vehicle to $8.

Golf fees at the Bethpage Black Course rose by $15 per round. Other courses at Bethpage, Hither Hills and Sunken Meadow increased up to $3 per round.

Nassau County. Nassau has built new playgrounds at Christopher Morley, Nickerson Beach and Wantagh parks. At Cantiague Park in Hicksville, a second multi-sport turf field is being installed to accommodate football, soccer and lacrosse.

Nassau also will begin charging nonresidents $5 to enter six of the county's largest parks. Fee booths will be manned 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends and holidays from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day at Eisenhower, Wantagh, Cantiague, Cedar Creek, North Woodmere and Christopher Morley parks.


Which parks are closing, and why?

With New York in the worst financial crisis in modern history, officials closed 37 parks and 14 historic sites across the state Monday to save $11.3 million. On Long Island, Brookhaven State Park closed and Nissequogue River closed except for the two marinas and the canoe and kayak launching area. But the public will not be prohibited from the entering the grounds.

But some parks were saved, right? How?

Four parks were pulled from the closing list at the last minute. Caleb Smith and Orient Beach remain open with donations from nonprofit groups and corporations. Cold Spring and Trail View remain open because a mountain biking group has agreed to maintain them with help from other groups. And Connetquot River State Park Preserve remains open seven days a week with a donation from a fishing group; the state planned to close it weekdays.

So, they’re saved forever?

Hardly. Even if the State Legislature gets the parks reopened when a final budget is approved, the financial problems aren’t going away anytime soon. So there could be more cuts or closing for the parks department next year.

What happens when the state budget passes?

Both the Assembly and Senate have included money to keep all of the parks open in their budget resolutions. But each house relied on a different mechanism, and Gov. David A. Paterson hasn’t supported either approach. So what the final resolution will be is anybody’s guess.

Didn’t the federal government have a problem with these closures?

Yes. In March, the National Park Service threatened to block millions of dollars in aid to New York if state parks operated with federal dollars were closed. And it said it would take back parks like Brookhaven that were acquired from the federal government if the state closed them. The state didn’t blink, closing the parks Monday.

Park service spokesman Phil Sheridan said the next step will be for his agency to determine which parks funded or donated by the federal government no longer have any public access. “If we find this happening, we would first work with the state to explore other options so that they would be in compliance with the law,” he said. If the state ultimately does not comply with federal requirements, Washington could turn off all federal aid to the state and seek the return of parkland such as Brookhaven.

Is the Jones Beach fireworks show on — or not?

Not.

Why not?

The fireworks display won’t take place this summer after 15 years because the state says it has a shortage of state park police officers to patrol the event. The cancellation is tied to ongoing state budget problems that have eliminated a park police training academy class for three years in a row. The state said it can’t borrow officers from other jurisdictions because they are all busy on the holiday.

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