The Conservation and Recreation Campaign is an organization dedicated to ensuring that every citizen of the cities, suburbs, and rural towns of Massachusetts has access to affordable, clean, and well-managed public land.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Budget for parks is hurt by deficit

By Lisa Wangsness and Beth Daley, Globe Staff March 5, 2007
As a gubernatorial candidate last year, Deval Patrick delighted environmentalists with a pledge to spend an extra $10 million his first year in office to begin fixing the state's long-neglected parks system.

But to the dismay of park advocates across the state, the budget Patrick released last week only increased funding for parks by about $740,000, according to a budget analysis by environmental groups.
"We understand the governor had a difficult budget this year, but we are disappointed he is not fulfilling his commitment," said Thomas J. Philbin , associate director of the Conservation and Recreation Campaign , which works to provide access to public lands. "It is critically important to the vitality of the state to have the quality of life and amenities these parks provide."
Patrick said last week he regretted that he had not been able to bolster parks funding more, and that it was one of the difficult choices he had to make in confronting a budget gap of more than $1 billion. Ian Bowles , secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said yesterday that the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) remains a top priority, and that Patrick's budget would give it more flexibility to focus on its core mission of caring for the state's beaches, parks, and campgrounds.
"Our goal at the end is to have each and every park in the Commonwealth be something everyone can be proud of," he said.
The state's park system, the sixth largest in the nation, was once celebrated for its varied and well-maintained parks. But in the last 15 years, Massachusetts has accumulated a backlog of maintenance problems that would cost $1.2 billion to fix. Last year, Governing magazine ranked the state 48th out of 50 in per capita spending on parks and 50th in parks spending as a percentage of personal income. Environmentalists say parks across the state are plagued with crumbling infrastructure, trash buildup, and insufficient staffing.
Patrick's budget for fiscal year 2008 would spend $89.5 million on parks, according to the environmental groups' analysis.
Tad Ames , president of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council , a nonprofit conservation group, said there is now "almost a palpable sense of abandonment in our state parks." He cited the Pittsfield State Forest , where campgrounds had been neglected and unmonitored use of off-road vehicles had created an intimidating atmosphere for visitors, he said .
In 2003 , Governor Mitt Romney moved to streamline parks management, creating the DCR by merging two agencies, the Metropolitan District Commission , which handled parks, recreation facilities, and parkways in Greater Boston, and the Department of Environmental Management , which took care of state land outside the metro area.
But Bowles said the merger never fully integrated the two agencies, and that the DCR remains burdened by a "duplicative" administrative structure as well as a variety of distracting responsibilities -- such as regulating dams, running state piers, and maintaining Storrow Drive.
"The governor wanted to review all of that and understand how do we refocus this incredibly important agency on its core mission, which is to deliver the best recreational experience for the hundreds of thousands of residents of the Commonwealth who use these parks and beaches each year," Bowles said.
Patrick's budget would give the department more flexibility in how it spends , Bowles said, and would redirect $3.6 million in legislative earmarks -- money set aside by the Legislature for specific parks programs -- to the broader goal of park maintenance and repairs.
James R. Gomes , president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts , said he recognized the need to reorganize the DCR, but , "I don't think that's a good reason not to invest in the parks now."
Gomes and other environmentalists said they sympathized with Patrick's plight. When he said he would increase parks funding by $10 million, candidate Patrick believed there would be a large surplus when he took office, not a deficit, they said.
"So we'll give the governor a rain check based on a tight budget this year, but we'll expect him to make good on his pledge in future years," said Gomes, who was co-chairman on the Patrick transition team's environment and energy working group.
Lora Wondolowski , executive director of the Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters , which endorsed Patrick in the general election, said she thought the governor genuinely cared about the environment, and hoped he would follow through on his promise as soon as he could.
"It's early in the administration, but my organization will hold him accountable on environmental issues," she added.
Wangsness can be reached at, Daley at

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Parks Caucus:

How do you feel it went? Was there anything you would like to add/change? Sound off let us know.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

PIPM Working Groups: Health insurance co. team

Get health insurance companies encourage people to go to parks/send maps that promote parks.

PIPM Working Groups: Employer Team

Have employers get employees (including commuters) out to use the parks (as a place to network).

PIPM Working Groups: Outreach Team

New people to join next Steering Committee meeting (November 1st from 3-5 at Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, 100 Cambridge Street , 9th Floor).

PIPM Working Group: Standards Team

Develop standards of what parks should be across the state (connect report cards to this)

PIPM Working Groups: Dog Owner Team

Make parks welcome to dog owners with lots of alternative ideas

PIPM Working Groups: Marketing Team


Develop a message, a tagline, a really good marketing campaign.

PIPM Working Groups: Political Strategy Team

Shift from public to private funding for schools and planning. Need larger political strategy and go beyond park advocates. Make alliances with people in other sectors of public services. Make a pact to get some kind of allocation of funding (not from corporations) that gives the public domain its proper place. (MA Budget and Policy Center/One Massachusetts is doing this; should reach out to them for the next conference.)

PIPM Working Groups: Youth Team

What is the best way to involve youth in the next (spring 2007) conference?

Monday, December 04, 2006

PIPM Working Groups: Technology Team

Technology team, includes providing Web-based resources for organic landscape management.

Friday, December 01, 2006

First State Parks Caucus

Come to the caucus to learn more about our parks and to voice your comments, questions, and suggestions.

From a notice sent to the leglislature Dear Members of the Legislature, I would like to invite you to attend the first State Parks Caucus meeting next Wednesday, December 6th from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM in Hearing Room B-2. The purpose of the meeting will be to strategize and set an agenda for improving state park land throughout the Commonwealth for the next legislative session. I invited Kathy Abbott, former DCR commissioner, as a guest speaker. I would like you as legislators to share your input regarding personal experiences and your vision for the future of state parks. Refreshments will be served . If you plan to attend please RSVP to my office at x8914 or by responding to this email. More information will follow prior to the date of the meeting. Legislators only please. Thanks, Mike Michael F. Rush State Representative 10th Suffolk District Chairman, Legislative Parks Caucus -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
BEFORE THE CAUCUS I invite you to take a look at the following TALKING POINTS from the Partners in Parks Conference:

1) Linking Parks and Recreation with the Public Health Agenda
How can parks and recreation programs play a wider role in health promotion through partnerships with public health agencies, healthcare providers, walking, jogging and biking constituencies, and others?

2) How Much Economic Value Does a Park and Recreation System Bring to a City?
What are the economic aspects of parks and recreation in a community? How can parks and open space stimulate economic development?

3) Making Room for Youth in our Parks
How can parks and recreation programs attract young people, nurturing leadership skills and a new generation of park stewards?

4) How to Talk the Talk: Communicating to be Heard
In many communities the value of urban parks and recreation is under-appreciated and misunderstood. How can park and recreation supporters deliver a persuasive and powerful message to make an impact at budget time?

5) Parks as Safe Havens
Real or perceived threats to public safety can keep people away from parks. What are the critical issues, and how can park and open space supporters develop partnerships to address public security issues and restore parks as welcoming, safe centers of community?

6) Parks and Corporate Citizens: Stories of Successful Partnerships
The corporate relationship is one of the most important resources that parks can develop. How can the corporate sector aid park restoration and maintenance through participation on boards, hands-on projects, and sponsorships?


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Are Mass State Parks too well funded?

This guy certainly thinks so! Let us know what you think!

From the Boston GLobe
A new path for state park system
By Stephen H. Burrington | October 3, 2006

MASSACHUSETTS, the sixth-smallest state, has the nation's sixth-largest state park system. Its diversity is remarkable. Miles of beaches in Greater Boston. The Hatch Shell and the Esplanade. Campgrounds, trails, and bikeways from Cape Cod to the Berkshires. Swimming pools and skating rinks in neighborhoods from Roxbury to Fall River and Springfield. Hundreds of miles of historic parkways. Three bocce courts.

This venerable system is under the care of the nation's youngest parks agency. The Department of Conservation and Recreation set up shop in early 2004, after the governor and Legislature decided to merge two pre-existing agencies. Energetic new managers are in place at DCR headquarters and in every region. Efficient new systems are being established for work scheduling and asset management, budgeting, customer service, and other functions.

DCR grew out of the public's high expectations for parks, and those same expectations have led to questions about whether the agency has enough money to do its job. Many facilities need reconstruction or improvement, and many parks need better maintenance. Advocates say that Massachusetts ranks near the bottom of the barrel in per-capita spending on parks.

Does maintenance need to be improved? Is state spending on parks anywhere close to the right level? The answer to both questions is yes.

That isn't just political ideology talking. There is a way to provide better stewardship at current spending levels.

Consider the numbers. DCR's share of the Commonwealth's fiscal year 2007 operating budget is $89 million. But total spending by the department this fiscal year will be $267 million. That's a lot of money, whether judged against historical spending levels, other states' spending, or -- most important -- DCR's needs.

Two-thirds of the $267 million comes from four sources: bond funds allocated by the Romney administration, supplemental budget bills, trust funds, and the federal government. Putting aside amounts devoted to non-park uses, such as seaport improvements and water supply protection, spending still totals nearly a quarter billion dollars.

The first order of business is to spend such an amount wisely. Let's begin with three steps:

First, cut back on legislative earmarks. This year, earmarks deprive the department of control over 10 percent of its annual operating budget. Nearly one-tenth of all budget amendments introduced in the Legislature last spring related to DCR -- an agency that accounts for less than 1 percent of the state budget. We must put the entire system first. When local special interests consume 10 percent of the budget, most parks suffer.

Second, sustain a high level of capital investment, and target it wisely. The current administration has launched an aggressive program to rebuild and improve the park system. Total capital spending went from $89 million in fiscal 2005 to $114 million in fiscal 2006, and may exceed $140 million this year.

This high level of investment has been supported in part by supplemental budget bills passed by the Legislature and governor. It is critical, though, to strike the right balance between capital projects and maintenance activities. We must break the cycle in which construction is followed by inadequate maintenance, Band-Aids, and premature reconstruction.

DCR has produced the parks' first comprehensive capital plan, a blueprint for bringing the system to a ``state of good repair" over about a decade. We've planned the work. Now let's implement it -- and do justice to maintenance, even at the expense of a few extra ribbon-cuttings.

Finally, let DCR focus on its conservation and recreation mission and use new strategies to carry out that mission. MassHighway is undertaking $250 million in bridge reconstruction projects on the parkways -- projects that would otherwise compete with parks projects in DCR's capital program. Bridge project design remains under DCR control. Another $250 million to $300 million in bridge projects lies ahead. MassHighway is also assuming responsibility for snow removal on the parkways, so the department will devote its staff and equipment to plowing sidewalks and pathways.

With legislative authorization, DCR has entered into long-term leases under which private or municipal entities operate most of its skating rinks. The rinks remain public facilities, with fees controlled by DCR. With the security of long-term leases, rink operators make capital improvements and extend the skating season and hours of operation -- simultaneously freeing up DCR resources for other needs. The Legislature should extend this arrangement to the dozen rinks DCR still operates.

Candidates for office may think the park system requires a massive infusion of new money. Yet there's another route to realizing the parks' potential. It requires discipline, but it doesn't necessarily require much more money than we're already spending.

Stephen H. Burrington is commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Borderland appears on dubious Top 10 list

By Vicki-Ann Downing, Enterprise staff writer
EASTON — Leaks and mold damaging the historic mansion at Borderland State Park have earned it a spot on the Preservation Massachusetts list of the “10 Most Endangered Historic Resources.”
Borderland is not alone.
One of the enduring symbols of the nation's founding is also threatened by official neglect, according to the group — Plymouth Rock.
In fact, Preservation Massachusetts has placed the entire 450,000-acre state park system on its annual list of 10 most endangered historic places.
The statewide, non-profit, historic preservation group compiles the list each year to call public attention to properties it believes are neglected.
The group calls Borderland its “poster child,” said Erin Kelly, a spokeswoman for Preservation Massachusetts. But it also pointed out the damage done to Plymouth Rock, which has been lifted, relocated, cracked, chiseled and chipped.
Plymouth Rock, where the Pilgrims are said to have landed, sits on the waterfront under a columned portico built in 1921.
Tiles from the ceiling inside the dome began falling off more than a year ago, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation placed a net under the ceiling to catch any others that might fall. It's still there.
“It's not exactly putting your best foot forward for a national monument,” said Paul Cripps, executive director of the Plymouth County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
In Easton, the town's Historical Commission nominated Borderland for the list.
“We chose Borderland because the mansion is just falling apart,” said Melanie Deware, historical commission chairwoman. “The staff does a good job in maintaining the trails. It's the buildings that are of prime concern.”
Borderland's 1,570 acres became part of the state park system in 1971. The property includes a three-story, 20-room, stone mansion built in 1910 by Oakes Ames, a Harvard botanist, and his wife, Blanche, an artist.
Tours are offered of the mansion, which houses Ames' botanical collections, his wife's paintings and the papers of Ames' father, former Gov. Oliver Ames.
The state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which manages the state parks, does not have enough money to maintain the mansion, said William Hocking of Foxboro, chairman of the Borderland Advisory Council.
“The entire DCR is way underfunded,” said Hocking. “The mansion is really a museum, and they don't have the funds to properly maintain it.”
Hocking said the private non-profit Friends of Borderland organization “has poured thousands and thousands into the mansion,” including painting walls and restoring paintings and furnishings.
The Ames family donated plantings for outside the mansion as well.
But repairs are needed to the windows, roof and drainage system, Hocking said. The mansion, made of stone on a concrete foundation, needs repointing.
“It's expensive, but it's a beautiful building,” Hocking said. “It would cost millions to build something like it today.”
Staffing at the state park is also a problem, Hocking said, even though park attendance remains consistently high. There are now three full-time, year-round employees, down from seven.
Volunteers help maintain the walking trails and paths, Hocking said.
Deware said Borderland is a community resource, used for weddings, war re-enactments and summer concerts.
In addition to Borderland, Preservation Massachusetts chose two other examples of neglect in the state park system, Plymouth Rock and the schooner Ernestina, which is dry-docked in New Bedford.
Jim Igoe, president of Preservation Massachusetts, said the lack of maintenance of state parks is “an embarrassment.”
“Borderland is yet another sad example of a wonderful cultural, natural and historic resource that has not been allowed to reach its full potential,” Igoe said.
“There is a community that is actively trying to keep this park alive and preserve wonderful artifacts within the Ames mansion,” Igoe said. “Their efforts should not be in vain or fall victim to budget cuts and lack of funding.”
Since 1993, more than 100 historic sites have been named to Preservation Massachusetts' endangered list. Fewer than a dozen have been lost, the group said.
Julie Jette of the Patriot Ledger contributed to this report.