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Proposed state budget to add $30 million for parks upgrades

Karen Blam, right, of Great River, feeds the

Karen Blam, right, of Great River, feeds the seagulls at Heckscher State Park in East Islip on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, with her sister Sandra Sarro, left, of East Islip and her husband Nick Sarro. Credit: James Carbone

New York State parks would get an extra $30 million for capital improvements under the governor’s proposed budget, raising the annual total to $120 million.

The extra money is part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 10-year plan to invest $900 million restoring buildings, systems, trails and boardwalks that were neglected for decades.

If the legislature approves, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation would spend the additional money in areas that also are ripe for private investment, according to the budget plan for the new fiscal year that starts April 1.

For example, the state might partly fund upgrades for a building, with the rest of the expenses borne by a concessionaire.

Cabins and cottages already planned at two Long Island parks — Heckscher State Park in East Islip and Wildwood State Park in Wading River — could benefit, according to the plan. So could a new visitors’ center planned on the North Fork.

“This funding will aid the ongoing transformation of the state’s flagship parks and support critical infrastructure projects,” the budget documents said.

So far, the state’s multiyear capital program has attracted nearly $265 million in investments from the private sector, a state parks spokesman said.

The operating budget for the parks agency is $181 million, about level with last year’s total.

The budget plan includes initiatives for children who otherwise might miss out on the great outdoors. Funding for a $500,000 program that buses children who live in poor areas to the parks would be doubled to $1 million.

A program allowing fourth-graders and their families who obtain passes the National Park Service provides for its parks will again be allowed to enter state parks for free, the budget plan said.

Other initiatives include low-cost, two-day camping trips for first-time campers, “especially from underserved communities,” the budget plan said.

These campers also would receive help with gear and “expert advice,” it said.

And a free camper program for foster children and at-risk youth would grow in the proposed budget to serve 300 foster families.


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