Monday, April 14, 2008

New Jersey Historic Places in Danger

Governor Corzine's proposed Fiscal Year 2009 budget impacts history in New Jersey in a terribly negative way.

An $8.8 million reduction from the $34 million Parks Management General Fund is anticipated.Some parks and historic places are going to be closed completely.

Full elimination of services and/or closure would occur at the following areas: Monmouth Battlefield State Park; Stephens State Park (administered under Hopatcong State Park, which will remain open); High Point State Park; Brendan T. Byrne State Forest (including Indian King Tavern); Round Valley Recreation Area; Parvin State Park; Jenny Jump State Forest; Worthington State Forest; and Fort Mott (including Hancock House).

Partial elimination of services and/or closures would occur at Ringwood State Park (including reduced hours at Ringwood Manor, closure of swimming at Shepherd Lake Recreation Area & Steuben House), D&R Canal State Park (including reduced interpretive services and closure of Bulls Island Recreation Area) and Washington Crossing State Park (40 percent reduction in interpretive staff – resulting in reduced hours of operation at Clark House, Johnson Ferry House and the museum).

New Jersey's Great Northwest Skyland's website states: "Not only do the planned closures seem to fly in the face of any judicious financial planning, they seem to confict with years of open space acquistion and preservation policy. Proponents of the controversial Highlands Preservation Legislation have looked to increased recreatioinal use of natural resources in Northern New Jersey as a sustainable force in the region’s economic future. The budget proposals come in response to New Jersey’s dire fiscal crisis. Perhaps the real problem is that New Jersey citizens have for too long been paying salaries, pensions, and benefits that support an entirely inept and unaccountable system of state management. [many comments at that web site you may want to read].

The "Preservation New Jersey" message board states:"Governor Corzine's Budget Address proposes a 1/3 cut in the NJ Historical Commission's grant budget, from last year's $4 million to the $2.7 million minimum set by the "poison pill" provision of the Hotel/Motel Tax. If this proposal is allowed to stand, it will mean that all history organizations receiving General Operating Support grants will face major cuts in their funding, while the Historical Commission's ability to fund Project grants will be sharply curtailed. In addition, the Historical Commission's salary and operating budget is being reduced from $510,000 to $346,000 -- a 32%cut!

Meanwhile, the $8.7 million cuts called for in the Dept. of Environmental Protection's Parks & Forestry Division will not only result in closure of some state historic sites, but will also significantly affect the Historic Preservation Office. Currently, the State provides just enough funding to match the annual federal appropriation for mandated programs such as the National Register of Historic Places, Section 106 review and historic rehab tax credit project reviews, and the the CLG pass through grants to local preservation commissions. It appears the HPO will no longer have review of environmental permits that are not mandated by the federal government.

What can you do??

1. Contact Governor Corzine via the Office of The Governor-NJ Web site and let him know what you think about all of this!

2. Join the Rally at the Trenton State House on Wednesday, April 23rd at 12:30 PM.

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