On April 16 I volunteered at Wachusett Mountain State Reservation as part of the state's Park Serve Day. It was an opportunity for folks to volunteer at a state park for a few hours and help get them ready for summer. I choose Wachusett as it's pretty close (less than an hour) and even though I've never hiked it, I am attracted to the mountain (whatever that means). Plus, Thoreau wrote about it!
I got there around 10am and the parking lot was packed! I was excited that there would be so many people helping out. The Revere High School softball team was there too and I thought they were there to help as well. Turns out that I was the only volunteer - all the cars were hikers! I spent the morning with two of the guys who work at the park (I forget their names unfortunately) helping them plant a garden next to the visitor's center. My first task was to nail in the spikes for the edging which didn't take too long. After that we dug holes for one tree, three bushes, and about 12 flowers. We then planted them and cleaned up - it only took us about 2 hours, if that, as I was back on the road by noon.
In talking with the guys, it seems that the only full-time workers there are them, another guy, and the supervisor. They said that there are a lot of budget cuts and that the revenue the parks get go back to the state's general fund, not to the parks directly. I said that it was too bad that all the money goes to the hacks and people in Boston and not to what the people enjoy (they didn't respond of course but they seemed to agree).
The state parks are exactly what the state should be spending their money on, in addition to things like education, social services, etc. Instead, the DCR budget may be slashed by $10m despite the fact that attendance at state parks is up 30%! If the cuts stay in place, parks will have to be closed and those that remain open will have staff reduced.
Kudos to the Massachusetts Stewardship Council which has come up with two ideas to help the DCR maintain some funding:
1. Allow DCR to keep 80 percent of any money it takes in, returning 20 percent to the treasury — a move that would give it an additional $2.7 million annually. Currently, it keeps just over 60 percent.
2. Fully fund the cost of the State House rangers. Lee said the DCR “continues to be asked to take on responsibilities for which budgeted funds are insufficient.’’ Staffing levels for State House rangers are determined by the Legislature, but the dollar amount designated for it falls short by $700,000.
Please contact your legislator and ask them to fund things we care about, not hack jobs.