Park closure talk shows turbulence of budget waters
Close Harvey Gap State Park? What could state park officials have been thinking?
Perhaps that something has to give in Colorado’s torturously tight state budget, that’s what.
It’s a relief to hear that state lawmakers have moved to restore $2.9 million in funding so 10 state parks that had been proposed for closure, including Harvey Gap, will remain open. The state Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee reconsidered the budget cuts after the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation said the cuts would force the shutdown of the parks.
Harvey Gap is a popular recreation spot for tourists and locals alike. It offers a cool location to swim, boat and fish in the summer, and is an ice-fishing hot spot in the winter. Colorado is not in such poor economic condition that Garfield County should have to endure the loss of this facility.
But while the state isn’t so bad off, the state budget is. The issue of state parks funding only highlights the fact that as things stand now, some vital state programs will have to be pared back. Lawmakers are scrambling to find places to save money; another proposal that would have local impacts would eliminate funding for an alternative juvenile correction program.
While Colorado residents object when the budget ax hits too close to home, they only have themselves to blame. The state’s budget quandary is a result of contradictory, voter-approved state initiatives that include the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which restricts the state’s revenue growth; Amendment 23, which mandates spending increases for schools; and the Gallagher Amendment, which limits the level of tax burden that can be placed on residential properties.
The result has been too much demand on limited state resources, and few options for cutting back when education eats up so much of the spending pie. The result is that popular parks and important juvenile programs become tempting targets, for the lack of alternatives.
Harvey Gap should remain open, just as funding for the alternative juvenile correction program should be restored. But Coloradans also need to recognize that unless legislators, and ultimately voters, are willing to resolve conflicts between budget-related citizen initiatives, there’s little choice but to start cutting programs where it hurts.
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