More funds sought for parklands - Asbury Park Press (4/12/06)

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More funds sought for parklands
Activists: $40M a good start

BY LAUREN O. KIDD
GANNETT STATE BUREAU


TRENTON — While appreciative of the $40 million Gov. Corzine included for maintenance and preservation of parks in his proposed budget, an ongoing, stable source of funding is needed, environmentalists contended Tuesday.

"It isn't the best fiscal time, but it's a real need and the park staff has had to do more and more with less and less," said Greg Remaud, conservation director for New York-New Jersey Baykeeper, an environmental group.

Remaud, also president of the Liberty State Park Conservancy, said events at the park, located in Jersey City, often cannot be held due to lack of staff. Buildings are deteriorating and parks cannot afford to hire enough lifeguards, Remaud said.

"What you lose is the visitor experience," he said.

New Jersey needs good trails, good boat ramps and more law enforcement in its parks, said Eric Stiles, vice president of Conservation and Stewardship for the New Jersey Audubon Society.

But finding the money for such initiatives in New Jersey's current fiscal situation will be difficult.

"We know it's a big lift," Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said at Tuesday's Statehouse news conference where environmentalists, sportsmen and affordable housing advocates announced a campaign to obtain a $180 million annual funding source for state parks.

"It is not enough to preserve open space, we need to maintain it," said David Pringle, spokesman for the New Jersey Environmental Federation.

Those involved in the "Common Ground for Parks" campaign said they were thankful for Corzine's $40 million proposed appropriation for the budget year beginning July 1. Pringle called the money "a significant down payment."

Corzine spokesman Anthony Coley also referred to the funds as a "down payment."

"Forty million dollars is a good down payment in a worthwhile environmental economic investment that is way overdue," Coley said.

Over the past decade, New Jersey has increased its open space by one third, while staffing at the Division of Parks and Forestry has dropped by one third, according to the Outdoor Recreation Alliance, which is launching the campaign for more park funds.

New Jersey has 42 state parks, 11 state forests, five state marinas and three recreation areas, covering a combined 400,000 acres of land, said Elaine Makatura, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Lauren O. Kidd: lkidd@gannett.com
 
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