Faced with closings, shorter seasons and limited maintenance for state and urban parks operated by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation; the State Senate late Wednesday night approved a budget amendment that provides performance-based incentives for the agency that could restore major funding to the parks system.
Under an amendment sponsored by State Senator Dan Wolf (D), of the Cape and the Islands, the performance-based funding provides the Department of Conservation and Recreation with an incentive for increasing the numbers of visitors and providing better services.
The amount of funds from the performance-based incentive would vary from year to year based on the number of visitors to state and urban parks who pay admission and camping fees. The amendment does not authorize an increase in fees, yet the total benefits for the state’s conservation work would be significant.
In recent years, budget cuts as high as 30 percent have led DCR to reduce visitor services and shorten seasons, effectively closing parks and reducing the opportunity for Massachusetts residents to enjoy nature.
“Our state parks are all about making it possible for all of our citizens – old and young, rich and poor, urban and rural – to enjoy our environment and natural heritage,” Wolf said.
“I’m proud to have helped put those parks on better financial footing, knowing that this will mean not just better access, but more support for conservation and management as well,” he said.
Nature Conservancy staff worked closely with members of the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Stewardship Council, Senate leadership and state officials to come up with a solution that would complement the Senate President Therese Murray’s efforts to ensure performance-based management and efficiencies.
“Our parks and recreational areas are a vital part of every community,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “I am proud the Senate showed its support with a ‘yes’ vote on this performance-based amendment.”
More visitors to state and urban parks will ensure increased funds to maintain these special places, and will benefit Massachusetts people as well as our important recreation and tourism economy, lawmakers said Thursday.
“The Senate has thoughtfully and carefully looked at each amendment to the FY12 budget,” said Stephen M. Brewer, Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Senator Wolf’s proposal to allow our parks to retain additional fees this year will be instrumental in keeping our parks open and accessible, which will benefit all the citizens of this Commonwealth.”
“I commend the Senate for taking an important step towards providing DCR with a positive and creative way to generate additional funding to support our extensive and popular park system across the state,” said Henry Lee, Chairman of the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Stewardship Council.
“Senator Dan Wolf's creative approach to providing incentives to DCR to potentially increase its sources of funding is an important precedent that we hope to build upon.”
“A broad community of conservationists advocating for the environmental budget joined in support of the amendment, listing it among their top priorities,” said Wayne Klockner, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.
“Public lands provide important habitat for birds and other species, but they also offer Massachusetts residents and visitors the priceless experience of being in nature. We need these special places nearby if we’re going to raise our children to both enjoy nature and appreciate its benefits to all of us,” Klockner said.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.