We were dismayed, disheartened and increasingly angry to learn that the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will need to close 35 state parks under a state Senate budget plan passed in May -- a plan that reduced the department's budget by $19 million ("Cutbacks Put Some State Parks on Shaky Ground," May 24).
The state parks are the jewels in the crown of the commonwealth, and removing them from public view and use should never even be considered. Tens of thousands of people depend on our parks for recreation, relaxation and introducing our children and grandchildren to the world of nature. They provide an emotional safety net, a place to go to relieve stress and reconnect with the land -- which is increasingly being developed and blacktopped. They are not the legislators' to trifle with, debate over or use to balance the budget. The parks are public land, and the legislators' job is to treasure, maintain and fund them -- for the people -- not to deny them what is rightfully theirs.
Where will the money to underwrite the parks come from? Frankly, that is their job to figure out. Look more closely at the tens of millions that go to "earmarks," most of which are less worthy projects that provide fewer benefits for fewer citizens. The "pork" requires trimming. Whittling away at state park budgets is an easy out to save a relatively small amount of money. Be more creative. If all other avenues are eventually honestly exhausted, consider a statewide tax of a modest amount to be dedicated to our parks and state forests. Our parks must remain open. And do remember -- elections are coming.
REV. JOHN and DR. SUZANNE FREE