We Can’t Let Christie Hold Our Parks and Beaches Hostage: New Bill to Help Stop it

A new piece of legislation will hopefully prevent the issues we faced this holiday with closed parks and beaches. The bill, A5128 (McKeon), requires State parks, forests, and other natural and historic areas to remain open to public for seven days if emergency is declared due to failure to enact general appropriation law as prescribed by NJ Constitution. New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel released the following statement:

“We need this legislation to protect New Jersey’s families and economy from actions like those taken by Governor Christie last week. He did it as part of his revenge on the people of New Jersey who find him the worst and most unpopular governor in state history. Christie is acting to his personal agenda and there will be serious consequences to the state’s people, environment, and economy. The closing of these parks is especially serious because New Jersey has a shortage of recreation space already. We want to thank Assemblyman McKeon for introducing this important legislation.

“In 2006 when there was a government shutdown, Governor Corzine didn’t shut down parks and beaches until after the July 4th holiday. Governor Christie closed them because he is vindictive. Shutdowns costs the state tens of millions of dollars in lost economic activity and revenue. It also creates a tremendous amount of additional pressure on county and local parks that can’t handle it. We should never allow a Governor to hold our parks and beaches, or the people of New Jersey, hostage.

“The Governor has taken money from funding parks for open space, with support from certain environmental groups. We’ve added hundreds of thousands of acres of open space without adequate money for capital repair or maintenance. There is over a $400 million backlog in capital repairs and needed improvement in our parks which are falling apart. We need this legislation to make sure that this won’t happen again and that people can enjoy the beaches and parks that belong to them even if the government fails to do their job.

“Most state recreation areas are filled by 10 am on weekends because there’s not enough space for everyone. There are only seven swimming areas for all 5.5 million people in North Jersey and we haven’t opened a new one since 1981 in Wawayanda. The Governor has a history of cutting park funding and giving it to programs for open space or “stewardship” that ends up logging forests. Under Governor Christie, DEP enforcement is down 60 percent, while our parks are falling apart. While DEP staff is down by 40 percent, the budget has been slashed by a third under the Christie Administration.

“Our state parks are some of the most heavily used in the country. The most used state park in the country is Liberty State Park. On regular summer weekends, most swimming and picnic areas are closed by 10 am because they’re already filled. Closing state parks and beaches means we lose dozens of swimming areas, campgrounds, historic sites and picnic areas for people to enjoy. Parks are just as vital as any other part of government, especially on the July 4th weekend.”