Bond issue is sought for parks - The Star Ledger (4/12/06)


JORBA Board Member/Chapter Leader
Bond issue is sought for parks
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Star-Ledger Staff

A coalition of environmental, recreation and sportsmen's activists said yesterday they will push Gov. Jon Corzine and lawmakers to find a stable source of funding to improve and maintain state parks, wildlife areas, historic sites and urban parks.

The coalition leaders said the parks need $180 million a year over the next decade.

They are asking for a bond issue to be placed before voters this November, and suggested the state could pay off the money by dedicating dollars from sources such as the sales tax or hotel tax. One coalition leader suggested a levy on "big box" stores or sports utility vechicle sales.

Calling themselves the Outdoor Recreation Alliance, the activists applauded Corzine's decision to place $40 million in the budget for badly needed improve to state parks, historic sites and forests. After years of inadequate funding, the parks and historic sites need at least $250 million in improvements.

"Key parts of New Jersey's state parks have been closed for long periods of time because of the state's failure to maintain them," said David Pringle, a director of the New Jersey Environmental Federation. "Governor Corzine's budget puts a significant down payment on this problem."

Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club director, said the coalition wants $99 million allotted annually for state parks and historic sites and wildlife lands' upkeep and improvements. Another $80 million a year would go for the same work in urban parks.

"As New Jersey sprawls farther and farther and our cities become more overdeveloped, where will the children play?" he said. "Parks not only provide places for recreation but are an investment in our families and communities. We need more than just open space, we need to have funding for parks too."

Anthony Coley, Corzine's spokesman, said the $40 million in the state budget "is a good down payment and a worthwhile environmental and economic investment that is way overdue." He said Corzine would like to invest all the money needed to fix the parks system, "but that is not the fiscal hand he has been dealt."

Corzine is scheduled to meet today with Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex), chairman of the lower house's Environment and Solid Waste Committee, who is crafting legislation for a stable source of funding for state parks.

McKeon said the coalition's proposal "is aggressive, no question. I do not think the amount needed is much in dispute. I do like the concept of including urban parks. It would make it attractive to legislators who do not host vast state parks. "

Twenty-two states, including New York and Pennsylvania, have stable funding for maintenance and construction of state parks.
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