More thoughts on yesterday's post about potential park closings:
Some people have made the argument that this whole situation of calling a special legislative session and threats of lost funding for various budgets (including state parks) is a ploy by Governor O'Malley to get the legislature to accept his package of higher taxes and slots to bridge the funding gap. They also think the likelihood of the parks being closed is very small and probably wouldn't happen.
Well, of course it's a ploy, that's how politics works, but that doesn't mean it should necessarily be dismissed. When specific parks get named as being on "the list" I take it a bit more seriously than a generic "we'll have to cut park funding". I hope they are right when they say the parks probably won't get closed, but we really don't know how it will play out.
Here's my analysis for whatever it's worth: The debate is currently being framed as "do you support higher taxes/slots or do you want to cut X, Y, and Z". It's being put in very black and white terms. So of course, the majority of your citizens do not support higher taxes, slots there is a major bigger split in the opinion. Regardless, when you combine the two most people hear "higher taxes" and form their opinion accordingly. Combine this with the fact that legislators seem to be saying they don't have enough info about the proposal and they don't want to be strong armed into voting for it, I predict O'Malley's play will fail.
So where does that leave us? If the new taxes/slots proposal does not pass, cuts will be made somewhere. Don't believe that there won't be some negotiation to what this final budget will look like. If (when) this happens, do you want the parks in question to be part of those cuts?
I'm not advocating supporting higher taxes or slots, that is for you do decide based on a whole host of issues. What I am saying is parks were listed as an item to be cut if O'Malley doesn't get his way and I am suggesting you make it clear to your reps that you don't find that an acceptable place to trim the budget. Don't let your opposition to slots or higher taxes cloud that issue, you can state your support for the parks without supporting that proposal. Again, do you really think it is so black and white that there will be no negotiation in the budget? I certainly don't.
Keep in mind that there is opinion and speculation in my analysis above. We, as citizens, don't know everything that is going on but it's my opinion that you should let your representatives know when something that is important to you needs to be addressed. Maybe this is one of those times, maybe not. You decide. Most of us, myself included, are too complacent when it comes to how our government is run. Some people say a special legislative session was not necessary, that the budget situation is not so dire that it could not wait until the normal January session. From where I stand, that is probably a correct assessment, although I can't say with certainty. Regardless, the session has been called, so that discussion really no longer matters.
The best we can do is try to stay tuned into what is going on, sift through as much of the political BS as possible and try to assess what the reality of the situation is, not what the politicians try to sell us.
Here are a few links I dug up that you can read about the budget situation. Always consider the source of information when reading. Washington Post articlle
First, a big thanks to the 75 of you who showed up to dig new trail at Patapsco on Saturday. It was incredible to have so many people show up and show support for the trails. Thanks also for the people who spread the word about the work day through their own contacts and MTB network, this really helped get the word out. Seems like the work is never done though, there's another fire burning that needs immediate attention, I hope you can help spread the word.
The MD state budget has a major short fall and if it does not get resolved they are going to shut down 8 state parks, some which have great mountain biking. The parks on the chopping block are: Gambrill, Rosaryville, Greenbrier, New Germany, Rocks, Gathland, Washington Monument, Fort Frederick, South Mountain Complex , Smallwood and Pocomoke
I just got word of this and time is short, so you need to call or email your Representative TODAY and let them know how important the state parks are to you, one of their constituents and voters. Let them know you do not support closing the parks for any reason. It's too late for mailing letters, this is all needs to be done today and tomorrow. We need to flood them with concerned park users who will be very angry if this happens. If you do not know who your reps are you can plug in your address at this web site to find out: http://mdelect.net/
Thanks again for all you've done to support mountain biking and trails in Maryland, we've got some great riding here and we want to keep it that way.
Below I am forwarding a letter from Eric Crawford, the trail liaison for Patapsco, thanking everyone for Saturday's work and listing all of the great bike shops that supported our effort. Show them some love.
Update at 3pm Thursday from Todd B. who spoke to his Rep's office:
There is a special session on the state tax increase today or tomorrow. If the new taxes are not passed, then closure of these parks is on the chopping block. These were the words from Delegate Rice's assistant. He was on his way to the session when I called a couple minutes ago. I expressed my concerns and she confirmed that Mr. Rice shared our position, however, she was also surprised to hear I was calling about park closures. She just wanted to know if I was for or against a tax increase. Basically, we need to call and voice our concerns.
Saturday, October 20 was a beautiful day. Sunny, a bit crisp in the morning and warm in the noon day sun. It was a perfect day; a good turnout was inevitable for our first attempt at cross-pollinating the MORE contingent with other trail users in the park. We had folks arrive from the nearby Northrop-Grumman campus and park lovers in the form of hikers and mountain bikers from as far as Northern Virginia. All told we had 75 people show. They worked a total of 290 hours in one day!
We rerouted the Charcoal trail changing its course to provide a loop trail around the campground for its user's enjoyment. As a result of this work we recognized an opportunity to address a long suffering section of the Santee Trail at the same time. By moving our alignments a bit this way and that we were able to correct two trails with terrible erosion issues in one volunteer day. We used techniques including full bench cutting, rolling grade dips and contour trail design to complete the challenges of the day. There are still a few details left for the trail crew and MCC to complete but for the most part the reroute is finished.
Following the work day the Single Speed Outlaw Factory Team organized a celebratory picnic at shelter 223. Clipper City provided the Heavy Seas Beer; The Bicycle Escape, Catonsville Bike Shop, Bike Dr. of Linthicum, Avalon Cycles, Germantown Cycles and Race Pace Bicycles carried the cost of the supplies and burgers and dogs. Hit these shops these guys love the park as much as you! Gold Stars are one date away for Mr. Hughes, Mr. Schultz and Mr. Seay for attending every Patapsco trail maintenance day MORE has had this year! Extra thanks go out to trail crew leaders, Kevin, Ken, Jon, Joe, Dave, Jeff, did I miss anyone? There were so many people there...
And as Mr. Whitehair alluded to on the web, extra special thanks to my loverly bride for letting me tramp through the woods while she was making sure we had enough supplies and starting the grills and generally making sure the picnic went off without a hitch.
Eric S. Crawford MORE Trail Liaison Patapsco Valley State Park