Preserved for a price, parks nationwide on endangered list

[Source: Travis Reed, Associated Press] — The economic downturn has forced states around the country to shutter historic sites and reduce visiting hours for parks.  But in Florida, Illinois, California, and a few other places, closures have been forestalled after outcries from the public and budget-juggling by officials. Still, funding shortfalls threaten public access at 69 recreation and historic sites nationwide, including the oldest building in Idaho, a sacred Native American ancestral village in Arizona, and a Washington kayak launch point into the Puget Sound….

Money from the stimulus bill could help.  That’s what made the difference in Florida, where Gov. Charlie Crist determined planned closures of 19 sites would not be necessary if the state gets the proposed $12 billion in federal stimulus money…

States that aren’t closing parks and historic sites are raising fees, cutting services, or both.  When every expense is questioned, parks and recreation — like family vacations — can be an easy target.  Unfortunately, the cuts come as more families are turning to state parks to save on their own expenses.  “A lot of our constituents now can’t afford to go too far from home, and they do need somewhere they can get away and just relax and take advantage of the great outdoors,” said Shirley K. Turner, a state senator from New Jersey…

Three parks in Arizona have already been closed temporarily and eight more face potential temporary closure.  Grants there that funded law enforcement patrols on the Colorado river are being suspended and canceled, and even a $3,500 re-enactment of a Civil War battle at Picacho Peak State Park has been called off.   [Note: To read the full article, click here.]