BOSTON (WWLP) – The weather is getting chilly, but people are still going out to enjoy the state’s public parks and forests. However, a recent letter sent to lawmakers is saying that those parks are in crisis.
In an open letter, more than 50 conservation groups called on lawmakers and the future administration to invest in the Commonwealth’s state parks. The Department of Conservation and Recreation oversees close to 500,000 acres of state land.
A report released last December shows that the agency lost 300 full time employees since 2009 and operational funding fell by 16 percent between 2009 and 2021. The report also found that even though Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest states in the country, it “ranks last in per capita spending on state and municipal parks.”
“There’s a lot of parks you go to and there’s crumbling infrastructure, sidewalks that haven’t been fixed, there’s gates that haven’t been fixed, there’s trails that haven’t been well maintained… maybe they’re overgrown, so there’s a lot of that stuff out there that really needs to be addressed, for people to get the full benefit of the parks they’re paying for,” said Doug Pizzi from Massachusetts Conservation Voters.
Noted in the letter is the FY2023 budget and economic development bill, which will spend close to $220 million on state and local parks. However, signers believe more can be done.
For example, appointing a DCR Commissioner with a successful and proven track record, making sure DCR implements the legislative special commission recommendations, and eliminating the $1 billion deferred maintenance backlog. The letter also calls for an increase to DCR’s budget by at least $10 million annually for at least another ten years.