State Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, is staying in close contact with the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to make sure state parks in the north country are not unfairly targeted for closure this year.
"There is a sense that we will not be hurt disproportionately in the north country, that the state parks commission would share the burden equitably," she said.
Gov. David A. Paterson has proposed trimming $29 million from the parks budget, part of a $134 billion statewide spending package that calls for $5.5 billion in cuts.
Parks Commissioner Carol Ash told state lawmakers that absorbing $29 million in cuts would leave little choice but to close some facilities, according to a release issued by her office. The state park system includes 178 designated parks and 35 historic sites.
"Simply stated, we will no longer be able to continue to operate all of the facilities and programs we currently administer," Ms. Ash told a joint fiscal committee of state legislators, the release said.
Parks officials have not yet presented a list of sites for possible closure.
Ms. Ash said Mr. Paterson's proposed cuts to the parks system represent a 16 percent reduction over last year and, if implemented, would bring the Parks Office's operating budget to about $155 million for 2010-11.
Mrs. Russell, whose 118th Assembly District is dubbed the "river district" because it follows the St. Lawrence River from Massena to Clayton to the eastern end of Lake Ontario, is aware of the impact closing any parks in her district could have on constituents.
The district is at the center of the state's Thousand Islands park system and includes about two dozen parks, including Robert Moses State Park in Massena, Coles Creek in Waddington, Jacques Cartier State Park in Morristown and Mary Island State Park in Clayton.
Mrs. Russell said she has not seen a list of parks being targeted for closure, but said she has met with parks officials, including Ms. Ash. She said she's received assurances that the north country will not be unfairly targeted for cuts.
But with the General Motors factory in Massena now closed and a prison in Ogdensburg slated to be shuttered as a state cost-savings measure, Mrs. Russell said she remains concerned.
"I'm not taking anything for granted. It's not over until it's over," she said. "The governor's proposed budget is just devastating for the north country. Our parks are destination centers. Closing them would have a ripple effect."
Massena Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said the loss of GM has made tourist dollars coming into the community more important than ever and he hopes advocating to keep Robert Moses and other state parks open for business becomes a top priority for Mrs. Russell and other lawmakers.
"The people who come to the park and come to the campground or the beach spend their money in Massena," Mr. Gray said. "Any outside money coming into Massena these days is more important than ever."
The state's Thousand Islands park region also includes Higley Flow park in the town of Colton. The park lies just outside the 118th Assembly District in the 122nd Assembly District represented by Dierdre K. Scozzafava.
Colton Town Supervisor Lawrence C. Patzwald said people in the community already are talking about what would happen if Higley closes, but he said it is too early to know what to expect.
"Right now it is just rumors, but there is no foundation yet that we may be on the list," Mr. Patzwald said.