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State won’t open parks, historic sites

John Brown Farm included

May 15, 2010
By CHRIS KNIGHT, Enterprise Senior Staff Writer

State parks officials say they'll start next week shutting down or keeping closed dozens of parks and historic sites, including the John Brown Farm State Historic Site near Lake Placid, because of New York's budget crisis.

Parks spokesman Dan Keefe said the 55 parks and historic sites that will be shut down or won't open for the season are the same ones Gov. David Paterson slated for closure or service reductions in February. Although the Senate and Assembly have voted to restore $11.3 million in parks funding Paterson wanted to cut, lawmakers have yet to adopt a state budget.

"So at this point we have no alternative but to go forward with the (closure) plan," Keefe said.

There is a chance some of the parks or historic sites could reopen for the season if state lawmakers adopt a budget that restores funding for them, Keefe said.

"That is a possibility, but at this point I can't predict what will happen," he said.

The long-term closure of John Brown Farm, located just outside Lake Placid in the town of North Elba, would save the state $40,000 a year.

The site is usually open for tours and other programs by May 1 but will remain closed for now, according to caretaker Brendan Mills.

"We were holding out hope that the budget would be passed and we could open, but they had to go ahead with that," Mills said.

Most employees at the affected parks and historic sites are being transferred to facilities that will remain open, although Mills said he will continue to work at John Brown Farm. The site's grounds will also remain open, he said.

"I'll remain here to work on projects and other things, but the house will not be open for tours," Mills said. "The site will not be completely abandoned."

Mills admits he's frustrated that he can't do his job.

"This is normally the time when Parks department historians emerge from their dens to give tours to their public, and that's what I'd like to do," he said. "We're just waiting for a budget."

The state budget, due April 1, is more than six weeks late.

The historic site is still planning to host a "Juneteenth" celebration on June 19, a traditional anniversary of the day in 1865 when Union soldiers brought news to Galveston, Texas that slaves were officially freed - two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation took effect on Jan 1. 1863. The event is being organized by the Friends of John Brown Farm.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondack



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