TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner, D-Mercer, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement after the budget panel heard from Department of Environmental Protections Commissioner Lisa Jackson about the status of her department’s budget and funding for parks and recreation in New Jersey:
“Families all across New Jersey are trying to do more on less, and stretch their family budget to the absolute limit. Gasoline prices are soaring, as well as the cost of basic necessities – right now, the cost of a gallon of milk is even higher than the cost of a gallon of gasoline. The national recession has had a profound affect on the expendable incomes of residents all over the Garden State, and many are seeking to visit natural and historical treasures closer to home, rather than extended vacations elsewhere.
“Many New Jerseyans are trying to make the most of their money while the value of the dollar continues to drop and the cost of living continues to rise. At this time of tight family finances, we shouldn’t limit the availability and access to State parks and recreation areas. It sends the wrong message about where the State’s values stand.
“In my own legislative district, two world-class State parks would be affected by the nearly $9 million funding cut in park funding. Washington Crossing State Park serves as an invaluable recreation area as well as a learning laboratory connecting park visitors with a piece of history. Princeton Battlefield would also be negatively affected by the funding shortfall.
“I’ve received communications from constituents indicating that they would be willing to pay more for the services that they use at these sites, but we must be careful not to price our parks out of the range of all but the wealthiest New Jerseyans.
“In times of national economic uncertainty, our State park services are even more important to the residents of New Jersey. We should exhaust every alternative before taking a short-sighted approach to slashing funding, cutting hours, or outright closing the parks that many rely on as a convenient escape from their everyday lives.”